Jaffa Hand in Hand Jaffa School
Hand in Hand Jaffa Preschool
The Jaffa campus and surrounding community is a case study of our success in creating system-wide change. Although known as a mixed city, Jaffa had no bilingual, integrated school for Jews and Arabs until Hand in Hand opened its preschool in September 2013 with 35 students. Today, the preschool has hundreds of Jewish and Arab students.
The demand to join our Jaffa preschool has been unprecedented. The hundreds of families who remain on the waiting list are unwilling to send their children to a homogenous school and demand a spot in Hand in Hand’s Jaffa preschool. Due to this pressure, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality asked us to open more preschool classes in order to meet the incredible demand. In the interim, the city is re-examining its current practice of separate education for Jews and Arabs in Jaffa. They have been persuaded that bilingual education is the direction that Jaffa should be moving in, and they are considering substantially altering the nature of the local education system to integrated bilingual schooling.
Kulna Yachad Elementary School
Kulna Yachad Elementary School is home to Hand in Hand’s 1st through 6th graders. In January of 2018, the city of Jaffa unveiled a new building for Hand in Hand’s elementary school. This is a state of the art school building, and has specially-designed features, including additional rooms to allow for small group work. This building will be an anchor for shared society and bilingual education in the center of Israel. The city named the new building “Kulna Yachad,” which combines the Hebrew and Arabic words for ‘together’. Both the name and its bilingual expression beautifully capture the spirit of togetherness and parity that Hand in Hand embodies.
The school will continue to add one grade each year until it is a full-fledged bilingual elementary school, with the capability of one day expanding all the way through the high school level. Over time, as the school continues to grow, we expect that Jaffa will become our flagship school in central Israel, influencing the entire region and amplifying a powerful message to the public of the viability and importance of shared living.
Each Hand in Hand school is attached to the adult community of parents, staff, and teachers that surrounds it. Our Jaffa community is blessed with incredibly engaged role models—parents and friends who participate in our busy schedule of ongoing programs, while also serving as passionate community advocates for bilingual, integrated education in Israel.
Jaffa parents are determined activists, continually urging the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality to expand integrated, equitable education in the city. As a result of their work, four different private bilingual daycare centers have sprung up in Jaffa in response to demand from local families.
The Hand in Hand Jaffa community is led by a steering committee of parents and other members who meet once a month to navigate the school’s relationship with the municipality, guide our continued direction in Jaffa, prepare kindergarten students for the first grade, and plan events. The Hand in Hand Jaffa community comes together for picnics, engages in dialogue workshops, attends formal language classes, hosts informal get-togethers for “Bilingual Mondays,” and engages in many more recreational and enriching community building activities.
One unique event hosted by the Jaffa community is the annual Hebrew-Arabic book week, an event organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. Book Week, which takes place at the Hand in Hand school, includes book sales, readings by authors and poets, a personal narrative storytelling workshop, and a bookbinding class.
Likewise, as with Hand in Hand’s other locations, our Jaffa community sees religious and civic holidays, as well as commemoration ceremonies, as rich bonding opportunities that increase inter-cultural understanding and empathy. Each year at the end of December, for example, hundreds of Arab and Jewish families come together to celebrate the holidays of light. Families learn about one another’s traditions, enjoy food, music, and activities together, and all are reminded of the richness of our diverse community.