What It's Like Studying in a Mixed Arab-Jewish School During a War

Educators at this unique Jaffa school – where 40 percent of the pupils are Arab – found new ways to defuse tensions, fear and harsh rhetoric between the pupils

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The Hashmonaim Elementary School in Jaffa, where 40 percent of the pupils are Arabs, May 2021
Jaffa’s Hashmonaim Elementary School. “A different environment develops children more. They feel comfortable expressing themselves, they’re not ashamed of being different,” says teacher Nava Harari.Credit: Hadas Parush
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

Hashmonaim Elementary School in Jaffa is adorned with drawings by pupils. The colorful images are similar to those in other schools, full of birds, flowers and clowns. In a state education system that usually offers separate tracks for Jews and Arabs, the names of the young artists stick out here – Selim, Hani, Ma’ayan, Khaled, Nahum, Eva, Lea, Nicola, Toni, Adele – indicating a multicultural reality in which the native tongue of half the pupils is not Hebrew. Sixth-grader Liel Frenkel says she only realized that her school was unusual after she saw a TV report a few years ago about a school where the pupils were all Jews. That was strange to her, at the time.