Israeli and Arab classmates discuss Middle East conflict

By Anna Etra

A Jewish Israeli student and an Arab Christian student told Harvard-Westlake students that amid all of the conflict in the Middle East, it is still possible for people on both sides of the conflict to get along. Dana Boulus is a Palestinian Christian and Tamar Borman is a Jewish Israeli. The two attend a non-segregated school in Israel.

The school is one of the Hand in Hand education centers, a Jewish-Arab education organization in Israel founded to build peace between Jews and Arabs through development of bilingual and multi-cultural schools, according to its website. The school accepts Jewish, Arab Christian and Muslim students.

The organization connected with Harvard-Westlake through parents Julie Bram (Alanna ’09 and Ben ’06) and Jensen Gores (Angus O’Brien ’14).

Borman, a sophomore, has been attending Hand in Hand since first grade. She explained that her parents are very forward-thinking but she still gets criticized by some of her peers for hanging out with Arabs.

Boulus, a junior, transferred into Hand in Hand in ninth grade, and she will be a member of the first graduating class at Hand in Hand in Jerusalem. Even though she lives in Israel, she had never before been friends with Jews. Within the school community however, students do not categorize their friends by religion or nationality, Boulus and Borman explained.

The students emphasized that especially in times of extreme conflict, they are taught to listen to each other’s opinions. Although they do not have to agree with their friends, it is extremely important for them to hear both sides of the argument. They were selected as representatives from the school to speak about their program because they are both passionate, deep thinkers and extremely articulate, Bram said.

“They were called into their principal’s office and they thought there were in trouble,” Bram said. “They were excited to hear they were going to America.”

Lee Gordon, the co-founder of Hand in Hand, accompanied the students. Gordon lived in Israel for 20 years and was active in the peace movement. The other co-founder, Amin Khalaf, is an Arab Israeli. In the United States, Gordon is the director of the support organization called American Friends of Hand in Hand.

“Tamar and Dana were invited to participate in a weekend youth conference sponsored by the Jewish Youth organization called NFTY,” Gordon said. “The goal was to help publicize Hand in Hand and our mission of building peace and partnership through education for Arab and Jewish Israelis.”

The students took a brief tour led by Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, stopped by the cafeteria and headed to Seaver 302.

They first spoke to Ari Engelberg’s seventh period AP Human Geography class, and then to Salamandra and Assistant to the Head of Upper SchoolMichelle Bracken’s eighth period Choices and Challenges class.

“It was nice seeing the translation of our class focus on personality types and real life situations into these girls’ stories,” Evan Brown ’12 said. “They were just like me, even though they live thousands of miles away,.”

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