Saturday night, November 30, the only bilingual school in Jerusalem for Arab and Jewish children was torched after, on its walls, were sprayed messages of hate: “Kahane was right!” “Death to Arabs!” “There is no coexistence with cancer!” One classroom, the kindergarten, was totally gutted by the blaze while another was partially consumed, as was a stack of books.
Generally, education through high school in Israel is segregated. Jewish and Arab pupils mostly study in separate schools, as do those coming from secular or religious backgrounds. Mixed schools are rare, and those which exist are private. The Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand school which serves 624 Arab and Jewish children and youths residing in both West and occupied East Jerusalem, from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade, is the largest Arab-Jewish school in Israel. It has been the target of several hate crimes in recent months, including at least one during this summer’s war in Gaza. The pupils of the school responded at the time by writing the slogan “Partnership, Love, Fraternity!” on their walls.
Parents of students at the school gathered there Saturday night to organize alternative spaces for the damaged classrooms and hung signs like “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!” which would greet the kids when they arrived at school the following morning, Sunday. Early on the same day, an 8 o’clock rally in support of the students and staff was held next to the entrance of the school. Shuli Dichter, director of Hand-in-Hand, which operates five such bilingual schools in Israel, said in a statement: “This is not the first act of aggression against the school and our commitment to civil partnership. Even if it succeeded in dirtying our walls, it cannot destroy our enterprise. In addition to sharply condemning the act and showing support, we invite the public in Israel to join us in building civil partnership between Arabs and Jews in Israel.” According to Gadi Gvaryahu of Tag Meir, a group that monitors and protests against so-called “price tag” attacks, Saturday night’s attack was one of 39 hate-inspired attacks on Arab schools, mosques, and churches since 2009.