Living Through Conflict, Living Together
On Wednesday, on the seventh day of Operation Pillar of Cloud, I attended the main parents’ association meeting of the Bilingual Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem, where Arab and Jewish students learn side by side, speaking both Hebrew and Arabic-and I was moved to tears. I am already very connected to parents there as well as the principals (there are two – one Jewish one Arab.) We speak often and get along very well, and just being there all of us together in the one room was already a profound contrast to what was going on outside.
There were some parents there who wanted the school to issue a public statement condemning the killing on both sides, and there were parents who thought that there was no need to make such political statements for ultimately what is really important is that day after day we live together, and our children study together and we meet after school, and so in some small way we are somehow influencing reality.
I found myself thinking how amazing it was that before I came to the school I didn’t really know any Arabs, and now there are many people I feel very close to, and to their children and that I would protect them with my body if someone tried to harm them. Then one Arab woman whom I am especially close to (all our children are in the same classes and we go walking every Sunday night together) said that she doesn’t really care what happens here – one state or two – only that her children will be able to speak Arabic in the center of the city without being afraid that someone will harm them, and more generally that they will be able to speak Arabic anywhere in the country with pride and without fear.
When she said these things I had goose-bumps and thought how terrible for a mother to be afraid like that for her children just because of their ethnicity, and this of course reminded me of other times when Jewish mothers were frightened for their children because of their background. I don’t know enough to say who is right and whether we were justified in launching this operation, but I hope that the way we are living together at the school will somehow radiate and impact on reality outside the school, and mostly that precious lives on both sides will not be lost.
Merav, along with her partner Nathan and three young children, moved to Jerusalem from Melbourne late last year. Prior to moving to Jerusalem, both Merav and Nathan were teaching at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University.