Mohamad Marzouk, a social-political activist for some 20 years, has focused much of his work on the advancement of civil society in Arab communities in Israel, as well as on peace education between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
When the oldest of his three children was ready to attend kindergarten in 2000, Marzouk was participating in a group promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue. The members decided the best way to build lasting relationships between Arab and Jewish Israelis was to create a school attended by both groups.
After hearing about Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, an organization that had started two bilingual (Hebrew and Arabic) schools for Jewish and Arab Israeli children, Marzouk’s group founded a third branch of Hand in Hand in Wadi Ara. He sent his three children there.
Marzouk, director of the community department of Hand in Hand, was one of two representatives of the organization who spoke at the First Narayever Congregation on May 30.
The event, which drew about 50 people, was organized by JspaceCanada, First Narayever and the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada, a strategic and supporting partner of Hand in Hand.
Marzouk’s co-presenter that evening was Rebecca Bardach, the U.S.-born director of resource development and strategy at Hand in Hand and a parent with three students at the Jerusalem branch, the largest and oldest of the six schools.
She said that by choosing this school for their children, she and the other parents are trying to find a solution to Jewish and Arab coexistence in Israel that is equal and inclusive.
The Hand in Hand program – it offers bilingual (Arabic and Hebrew) education for its Arab and Jewish students – celebrates all the Christian, Jewish and Islamic holidays.
People in attendance asked how the school dealt with Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and the Nakba (the Arab word for catastrophe), which is how Israelis of Arab descent mark the day.
“We talk about it,” Marzouk responded. “When people experience difficulty, we talk about it."They talk about it, and then they all "Imagine" a time when the Jewish state will be replaced by a non-specific, "inclusive" entity (because it's the fact of Jewish sovereignty that the coexistniks and their supporters have such a big problem with).