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December 19, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 19, 2014 Jerusalem coexistence programs persist amid rising tensions By Ben Sales JERUSALEM (JTA)-- Rawan Masalha and Inbar Shaked-Vardi were in their ninth-grade geography class earlier this year when a fight began over the name of their textbook, "Israel: Its People and Area." "The Palestinian students started saying, 'Why Israel? Why not Palestine?' They didn't want to use the book," recalled Shaked-Vardi, 14, a Jewish student from western Jerusalem. She and Masalha, also 14 and from eastern Jerusalem, recalled their/Palestinian classmates changing "Israel" to "Palestine" as they read aloud from thetext. "Some of the Jews felt it's Israel, it's the land their grandparents helped build," Masalha said "But for Pales- tinians, it's the place where 300 years ago their ancestor had his orchard. The Jews said it's the Land of Israel, the Arabs said it's Palestine." Masalha and Shaked-VarAi are two of more than 600 students at the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School, Israel's largest joint Arab-Jewish school and the only such primary and high school in the city. Hand In Hand is the big- gest and most intensive of a handful of youth Coexistence initiatives in the city, which has seen Jewish-Arab tensions rise following a recent spate of violence. At Hand In Hand, students attend classes in Hebrew and 72 35 68 84 51 29 17 93 46 Arabic, celebrate Jewish, Muslim and Christian holi- days, and engage in aweekly current events dialogue. They learn both the Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives. The past year has been a challenging one for the school. Classes have struggled to confront the effects of war in Gaza this summer, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the killing of a Palestinian teen in response, and recent deadly attacks in Jerusalem, including the killing of four Jewish worshippers and a police officer last week at a synagogue in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof. "You come to school charged," said Tala Jbarah, 15, a 10th-grader from eastern Jerusalem. Efforts to sepa- rate politics from her life at school, she said, have been "very hard." Located on a campus in western Jerusalem, Hand In Hand seeks to be an island of peace in a city riven by conflict. The goal, says middle and high school principalArik Saporta, is to have students confront intolerance, not to isolate them from it. "We're not a bubble, we're a greenhouse," Saporta said. "A bubble is shut off from what's outside. A greenhouse brings the outside inside, but also holds the plants so they can grow outside." Beyond school, students face a difficult climate. Recent polls suggest that younger 1593486 4867129 9142375 792,1 653 3.486297 6735841 2358964 8674512 5219738 HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning  Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 Israelis are more extreme than their parents. One survey conducted ahead of last year's national election found that among voters under 30, the most popular party was Jewish Home, which supports Jewish settlement in the West Bank and opposes a two-state solu- tion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish Home placed fourth in the election. A poll conducted in 2010 found that majorities of Israeli high-school students preferred strong leaders over the rule of law and believed that state security concerns should trump democratic values. Young people involved in coexistence projects say xenophobic attitudes have flared on both sides because of this year's violence. Samia Nustas, 16, anArab resident of eastern Jerusalem who sings in a Jewish-Arab choir at the Jerusalem YMCA, says that a friend chided her for associat- ing with Jews. "If I care about them and they care about me, what's the problem?" Samia said. "I try to tell her, 'No, they're not like that.'" Students understand that when they become adults, they will enter a largely separated society. Most Jewish students will enter a military conscription that could have them manning a West Bank checkpoint. Michael Mintz, 14, is a participant in Heartbeat, an afterschool program where Academy Emil Salman Jewish and Arab students working on a project together at the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School, where they also engage in current events discussions. Jewish and Arab teens make music together that is sup- ported byAmerican rock stars Neil Young and Eddie Vedder. Serving in the West Bank, he says, is an opportunity. "If they tell me to go to the territories, I won't say no," Mintz said. "I won't refuse to serve my state. I'd rather go to the territories so there won't be an idiot there who's not nice to [Palestinians]." Despite the challenges, teenagers and activists say the coexistence programs are succeeding in fostering mu- tual empathy across the ethnic divide. On Monday night, the YMCA choir, which combines dialogue on current events with vocal training, sang a rousing cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" after a rehearsal led in Hebrew and Arabic. "They can't talk about everything all the time, but it's in everyone's hearts and minds," said Noa Yammer, Hand In Hand's communica- tions coordinator. "If you've been with Jews and Arabs, and spoken Hebrew and Arabic since you were 4 years old, there's something more natu- ral about it. You can weather these things." Though the coexistence programs do outreach to par- ents, visit other schools and take trips abroad, they remain relatively small, with fewer than 1,000 total participants out of a total youth population in Jerusalem numbering in the hundreds of thousands. A YMCA staff member says she has trouble recruiting Jewish participants to her programs because most of the interested Jewish kids already attend Hand In Hand. The YMCA, which has brought Jews and Arabs together in joint programs for decades, also has a Jewish-Arab kinder- garten, a youth videography workshop and leadership training programs. Those who do participate say the challenges of the past few months have only made them more resilient. At Hand In Hand, the ar- gument over the geography textbook continued through- out that day, Masalha and Shaked-Vardi recall. But the following morning, it was all but forgotten. "We got there the next day, and all we saw were our friends," Shaked-Vardi said. "We can forgive them and laugh." From page 1A dents presented Mr. George and Habitat for Humanity a check for $300 that they raised during their sixth an- nual "Fun Run" held at the school last Friday to benefit the organization. The Jewish Academy want- ed their students to under- stand, especially during this holiday season, that not all families can meet their basic needs with their jobs or in- come. "Our students are so fortunate to live in comfort- able homes, have clothing to spare, and food on the table each night," said principal Shari Wladis."Taking the kids to the Habitat for Humanity worksite was an eye-opening experience. Our second grad- ers wanted to help Habitat for Humanity in their mission to provide simple, affordable shelter to families in need. We want them to understand that it is a mitzvah to help others through volunteerism, which is what Habitat for Humanity is all about." For more information about the Jewish Academy of Orlando or to arrange a visit to the school, please contact Jessica Mishael, Admissions Manager, atjmishael@myjao. org or 407-647-0713. TOP From page IA life, Jewish camp experiences, college campus programs or support for Israel and overseas programs. Nearly two-dozen syna- gogues, agencies and day schools joined together on Dec. 3 to learn more about the opportunity. Applica- tions for formal participa- tion (which includes an incentive grarlt to selected agencies) are due on Jan. 7 from interested agencies, at which time they will be reviewed by a lay committee and evaluated based on a set of objective and subjective criteria. TOP invites all organi- zations, whether selected for the inventive grant or not, to take advantage of the program in full, which will offer two years of endowment development training, consultation, and marketing support at no cost. Twelve agencies will receive incentive grants of $6,000 per year for two years and will be expected to form a committee, com- mit to attending trainings, and secure at least 18 letters of intent each year of the program. Conceived by the San Diego Jewish Community Foun- dation in 2004, the Life & Legacy concept has since gone national with great success. In 2006, The Jewish Federations of North America began help- ing communities across the country establish "Create a Jewish Legacy" programs. In 2012, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation launched a more comprehensive version of this program entitled "Life & Legacy" and each year invites a select number of communi- ties to participate. As part of this program, a grant of $300,000 will be awarded to TOP to facilitate the program and provide the incentive -grants to local agencies. TOP was one of eight communities selected for the 2014-2016 cohort. For more information about the Life & Legacy program and TOP's involvement, contact Emilie Socash, TOP execu- tive director, by telephone at 813-769-4726, or by email at Emilie@topjewishfounda- tion.org. Laskin From page IA He uses "The Family" as a springboard into the subject of researching family history and how to identify the crucial details by which one family can embody the great cur- rents of world history. In the course of his lec- tures he has had people approach him and say, "This could have been my family. It is so similar to our family history." And it is a similar story for so many Jewish families in America. Is one ever too old to start researching their family history? "Heavens, no!" he exclaimed. The family history websites available are a great resource, however Laskin said to first try and go straight to the source--family members still alive. "Contact everyone you know, cast a wide net! Begin the old-fashioned way--talk to your relatives! Then go to the websites," he encouraged. "And you never have tosearch alone," he commented. Two other areas that are very help- ful, Laskin suggested, are lo- cal genealogical groups--like the one in Central Florida-- and the local library. Laskin will discuss all this at the program presented jointly by JGSGO and COS on Jan. 12. The event will be held at Congregation Ohev Sha- lom, 613 Concourse Parkway S, Maitland, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and admission is free. In addition to Laskin's talk, there will be five door prizes given out during the evening. These include: A gift card for a one-year World Explorer subscription to Ancestry. com ($299.95 value) (the most widely used website for searching for records to build your family tree); A certificate for a one-year subscription to www.fold3.com ($79.95 va_lue) (a specialized web- site for searching military records, city directories, naturalization records for buildling your family tree); A certificate for a one-year sub- scription to www.newspapers. com ($79.95 value) (a website to search old newspapers for obituaries and articles useful to building your family tree); A copy of Family Tree Maker- PC Version ($39.95 value) (software to create your family tree); and a copy of Family Tree Maker - Mac Version ($39.95 value) (software to create your family tree).