Hand in Hand School torched in an arson attack

Hand in Hand School torched in an arson attack

December 1, 2014

The bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand School, which serves over 600 Jewish and Arab students in Jerusalem, was set ablaze this Saturday night, Nov 29th, in what appears to be an anti-coexistence hate crime.

Graffiti was reportedly found on walls inside the school, with messages such as “you can’t co-exist with cancer,” “enough with assimilation,” and “death to Arabs,” which lets the police suspect arson. Conference of Presidents leaders Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, deplored the attack saying that, “this is unacceptable and we urge the police to do all to apprehend those who are responsible”.  They stated further that, “it is the responsibility of all leaders to assure that those who engage in incitement as well as those who engage in these despicable acts are held to account.”

A number of Knesset members condemned the attack including the Education Minister Shay Piron who said that, “this is a violent, criminal and despicable incident aimed to injure and undermine the foundations of Israeli democracy. The fact that it was an arson attack on an educational facility that advocates coexistence severely undermines the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs. I urge the Israel Police to act immediately and bring to justice these despicable vile criminals."

In today’s press release, JFNA condemned this act of hate and destruction and expressed hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Further on, JFNA noted that, “institutions that work to build a just and inclusive society by promoting better understanding between Jews and Arabs help strengthen Israel for the benefit of all its citizens.”

“Even when they stain our school walls, they will not succeed in destroying our work”, said Hand in Hand Executive Director, Shuli Dichter, in a statement. "In addition to strong condemnations and expressions of support, we invite the Israeli public to join us in building civic cooperation among Jews and Arabs in Israel. We will continue to grow and develop our educational and social structures, where 1200 students, 200 teachers, and thousands of community members come together every day.”

AJCs Executive Director, David Harris, condemned the attack in a press release: "Hand in Hand is an inspiring example of the effort to strengthen Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, and to build a platform of coexistence and mutual understanding".  He further elaborated that, "the perpetrators of this despicable act not only harm an innovative school, but also attack an essential pillar of Israel."

Upon her visit at the Hand in Hand School, Rachel Azaria, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, stated that, “Harming this school is a horrific crime perpetrated by people who want to destroy any place that creates real cooperation between Jews and Arabs despite our fears and differences. We will not let them do this. The municipality of Jerusalem fully supports the school and we will ensure their continued to work.”

Following this attack, MK Nahman Shai requested an urgent meeting of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee to discuss the arson attack, saying that "the time for words is over, and it's time for action." "Targeting the bilingual school is a disgrace for Israeli society and a great embarrassment for the security services who are proving to be helpless and fail to expose the wave of homegrown terrorists who destroy any chance for a shared life in this country,” he said.

In the recent Wexner Foundation’s blog, Eliot Goldstein, Executive Director for Global Resource Development at JDC, shared his struggles to explain the attack to his 6 year old boy who attends the Hand in Hand school. “There is a different view on how the future of this beloved land can play out”, he says. Next day, when they attend the rally in support of bilingual school after attack, they are joined by “Arabs and Jews; religious Muslims and secular Jews; religious Jews and secular Muslims; deeply spiritual Christians as well. Eliot Goldstein is convinced that his responsibility as a parent is to teach his son that walking together is the only way how to swim out of these tumultuous waters.

Read the full Hand in Hand statement, here

Read more in The Washington Post, here.

Read the AJC press release, here.

Read more in Haaretz, here

Read the JFNA press release, here.

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