Creating Real Change in the Lives of Israel's Children
By Avi Mayer
Today was the last day of my sixth year working at The Jewish Agency for Israel. Tomorrow marks my sixth JAFIversary.
I spent the day with the boss, visiting some of Masa Israel Journey's Jewish-Arab coexistence programs. Our first stop was a public school in the central Israeli city of Ramla, in which Jewish, Muslim, and Christian kids study together. The school is part of our Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program—The Jewish Agency's answer to Teach For America—which brings young Jewish college graduates from abroad to volunteer teaching English in elementary and middle schools across Israel.
We observed a fourth grade class taught by one of the fellows, Jason, which focused on Jerusalem's holy sites and was conducted entirely in English. The students have spent the past few months learning about the significance of each site and even created models of the structures using one of the school's two 3D printers (my, how things have changed...).
As I watched the children share the sites' religious significance in careful English, it occurred to me that I couldn't tell what religions they were -- each student embraced the other's religious narrative, regardless of his or her own beliefs or heritage. They discussed the two Jewish temples, Mohammed's steed, and Jesus' resurrection. Only when one student talked about going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with his family and another spoke about visiting the Western Wall with hers did we receive some indication of their faiths.
I couldn't help but smile. That group of Israeli nine- and ten-year-olds is what hope looks like, and if we had a thousand more classrooms like that one across our troubled region, our common future would look far brighter. Israel's tomorrow will be better because of what is happening in that school today.
It's a great privilege to be part of an organization creating real change in the lives of Israel's children, and I'm grateful for that privilege every day.
Avi Mayer is the Spokesman to the International Media for The Jewish Agency for Israel, the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. He lives in Jerusalem.