A bilingual and integrated Jewish-Arab school in Israel has won a global education prize in recognition of its efforts to heal longstanding divisions.
The Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School – where Jewish and Arab students learn together in both Hebrew and Arabic – has been crowned winner of the T4 Education World’s Best School prize for overcoming adversity.
It comes as thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of Israelis have been taken hostage by the militants in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war broke out nearly a month ago.
The leadership of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School reflects the diversity of its student body, with an Arab elementary school principal and a Jewish secondary school principal.
There is also equal representation of Jewish and Arab staff, who work closely together to create an inclusive learning environment for all the students.
Dani Elazar, chief executive of Hand in Hand – which runs a network of bilingual, multicultural Jewish-Arab schools in Israel, said: “Winning an award as ‘the best school in the world’ would normally be a cause for celebration.
“With a war waging and thousands of precious lives lost, this is not the time for celebration. It is the time for resolution.
“We resolve to continue overcoming adversity, day by day, for the sake of a better future for all, Jews and Arabs alike. Overcoming adversity is precisely what the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School is doing at this very moment.
“We hope that the conferral of this award will raise people’s awareness that there is an alternative to hatred and fear. All children of this land deserve a better future. Together is the only way we will achieve it.”
Cadoxton Primary School in Barry, south Wales, reached the final three for the overcoming adversity category – but missed out to the school in Jerusalem.
The winners of the five World’s Best prizes – for community collaboration, environmental action, innovation, overcoming adversity, and supporting healthy lives – will all receive 50,000 US dollars (£40,000).
The Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School intends to use the prize money to support its unique co-teaching model and to raise awareness of the values of shared society and equality among a wider audience.
Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education, said: “My deepest congratulations to The Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School. In dark times, you shine a light.
“By healing longstanding divisions between Jews and Arabs through the transformative power of education, you show that there is a path to understanding and with it peace.
“Educators across the world should look to the example of your school in the difference you have made to so many lives. And governments must look to the trailblazing work you have done as they seek answers to the great challenges we face today. Where you lead, they must follow.”
Last year, Dunoon Grammar School, a state secondary school in Scotland, was crowned winner of the global prize for community collaboration.