Yesterday I attended a students activity day for A New Way. A New Way is an organization that brings Arab and Jewish Israeli students together for multiple activity meetings and then for a final meeting among their parents.
I walked into the classroom and I felt confused. Arabs sitting on one side, Jews sitting on the other. The Jewish girls made cookies and cakes, came up to every Arab student and offered them a piece with a smile. But the Arab students were lost, had no idea what they were doing there and were unable to smile. The first activity began. I sat with the girls. I noticed a girl with a head covering who didn’t say a word. She refused to even try and speak Hebrew. I heard her say her name one time, Aamira. I kept my eye on her…
I realized that everything that is said by a councilor or student is translated into Hebrew and Arabic so that everyone understands. A majority of the Arab students don’t speak Hebrew and none of the Jewish students had fluent Arabic. You see buddies, they don’t leave their buddies. It’s like they’re scared to move without someone from their side… They begin to laugh together, the ice is melting.
A conversation starts among the girls. The Jewish girls start to tell the Arab girls that they can have boyfriends, their parents know about them, and they come over often. Aamira looks angrier than when she walked in.
The Arab girls say there is no way they can have a boyfriend and tell their parents! They hide it away from them. The Jewish girls are shocked! They begin to talk and laugh about it, a young Arab girl talks about how a girl in their school is pregnant and her parents don’t know – she’s broken the ice.
Aamira yells in Arabic “They are allowed to love, we are not.” The ice they broke just shattered.
Later I sat with the boys who just came back from playing soccer. The councilor was telling them about how this coming Wednesday the teachers and students are going on strike because schools in Israel have cancelled school trips. The councilor tells them “Look at how much power you as students have! No student in Israel is coming to school on Wednesday!” An Arab boy yells, “Us too??” confused on if he’s a part of these Israeli students the councilor is talking about…
The boys were asked if they were to build a soccer team together, how would it work?
Ben yells “Let’s agree that the team’s coach is a Christian! That way its fair!” The boys laugh and agree.
“What days will we train?” Ahmed yells
Gil says “Sunday’s and Thursday’s!”
“Our coach can’t train on Sunday’s!” Ben says
He’s right… So they agreed to Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“And what color shirt will we wear?” Adam says
“White! It’s the color of peace and clarity” Ahmed answers.
They all smile and nod. Leaving with the feeling of peace and clarity… Not looking back at the past but forward towards a clean and new future, together.