The Hope of Israel and Its
Despair All In One Day

By

Leonard Zwelling

         The Max Rayne School-A Hand to Hand School for Bilingual
Education in Jerusalem is the real hope of Israel. Started in 1998 the school
is K through 12 for children of both Arab and Jewish backgrounds and draws
students from all over Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Everyone learns Hebrew.
Everyone learns Arabic. They also get English in the third grade. All holidays
are celebrated and all traditions are respected.

         Fadi, an Arab from Haifa who speaks flawless Hebrew and
pretty good English, showed us around the classrooms of the school that sits
right on the green line, where 1948 Israel abutted 1948 Jordan, the perfect
location for a bilingual, bicultural school that lives and breaths tolerance
and HSL and ASL, Hebrew and Arabic as a second language. Because most of the
children are now drawn from present day Israel, it is the Jewish children that
need the help with Arabic far more than the Arab children need remedial Hebrew.
They have been brought up in a Hebrew world as well as absorbed the one on television and
can usually speak Hebrew to some extent already. The school has an active parents
group, from both sides. In fact, they don’t even see two sides. Just one. Their
kids’ future.

         Take a note. Step one in fixing the Arab-Israeli crisis may
well be here in this school as the children of the Jews and the children of the
Arabs share a common education, culture and respect for their differences. It’s
a hope.

         Danny built the wall. He describes for us the need for the
fence and the wall that sprawls for 450 miles across the ground that separates
Israel from the Arab territory. Danny insists this is necessary for security—to
stop suicide bombers who were having their way with the Israeli people after
the Second Intifada. The 9 meter high cement sections of the wall are a small
percent of the total but they are formidable and impregnable. The question is
was the only purpose of the fence to keep Arab terrorists out of Israel? Or
could it be that the ultimate territorial goals of the Israeli governments were
being met and locked in through the use of barbed wire and huge blocks of
concrete that isolated the Arab population from areas desired by the Israelis
that were in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?

         Shaul helps clear it all up with his amazingly complex maps
that disavow us of the notion that there is anything neat about the separation
of the parts of the West Bank into A (PLO oversight, very few Israelis
allowed), B (Israelis allowed but still under PLO control) and C (the up for
grabs sections that contain most of the controversial Jewish settlements). Gerrymandering is not limited to US congressional districts.

         The map that Shaul gave us of the actual situation on the
grand is a mind-numbing Jackson Pollack of green (Palestinian settlements),
blue (Jewish settlements) and red lines and green lines demarking all kinds of
borders dating back to 1948. The Jews want to maintain and expand access to
Jerusalem while making passage among its settlements in the West Bank facile.
The Palestinians wish the same and the status of the Old City with its holy
sites held sacred by the three major religions on Earth is not resolved at all.

         Shaul takes us to one high ground after another all around
Jerusalem pointing out where the various lines really are, how they affect the
lives of the people living between and among the lines, and how effort after
effort of negotiation to resolve the challenge has failed.

         He sees only a two-state solution as being viable. Perhaps,
but much like the leadership in the US, the leadership of Israel will need to
fall into the hands of a visionary with the confidence to negotiate and to
deal. And that Israeli leader will need an Arab partner of equal courage with
whom to make the final deal.

         So there it was. A day filled with hope and despair. Hope as
the children of Jerusalem lead the way to tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
Despair as both sides seem unable to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity
and make no mistake, it has been missteps by both that have led to the stalemate
of today. It will necessitate some really great leadership to get out of this
quagmire or else we’ll just wait for those kids to grow up and assume office.

         We end the day at the Kotel, the Western Wall the nearest thing to the holiest
site in Judaism just below the Temple Mount (which is the holiest site) and the Dome of the Rock and the Al
Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The Wall area is controlled by
the Orthodox Jews who constitute the majority of the men praying before the
Wall. But not the majority of people at the Wall. For the first time in our
many visits to the Wall the women outnumber the men and they are boisterous as
they fill the right most area before the Wall which has been expanded to
accommodate more women. I never thought I would see the day when the women
outnumber the men at the Kotel, but there it was.

         Nothing is impossible.

Leonard Zwelling