Where Family Counts
e climbed off the tour bus into a pleasant
Uri, the principal, is right: "We have no choice but to live
neighborhood splashed by the midday sun-
with the Arabs and they have no choice but to live with us.
shine. Kids were on the playground of the
We all need to get to know each other better."
school that 45 Detroiters were eager to learn
I realized how much we in America take for granted when
more about. Smiles and shaloms greeted us.
Sneer said, "I am very proud that you come to Israel on our
It was Monday, April 26, eight days into a 10-day journey
day of freedom."
to the Holy Land. We were visiting a middle-class school in
Gilad School is supported by the Jerusalem-based Frankel
the southern part of Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth). This
Center for Jewish Family Education. The Metro Detroit and
Central Galilee city is set amid rolling hills in the midst of
Washtenaw County federations support the center. The center
Michigan Jewry's partner region in Israel. Partnership 2000
strives to develop studies, train teachers and create family pro-
helps Israeli and Diaspora regions connect in varied ways.
grams that boost Jewish identity. It also seeks to bring schools
Upper Nazareth is a city of hollyhocks and
and parents together in teaching pluralistic Jewish values, tra-
snapdragons and of stone block homes
Staff photo .13 Robert A. Sklar
and red-tiled roofs. It's a city of Jews
and Arabs who want a peaceful com-
munity where they can raise their kids
and enjoy life's pleasures. Mount Tabor,
from the Book of Judges, is nearby.
Upper Nazareth also is a city that
converted what was to be a new hotel
ROBERT A. into living quarters for illegal foreign
workers when the Palestinian intifada
erupted in September 2000 and tourists
stopped coming. Five percent of the
50,000 residents in the city are Arab.
Those of us on Bus 2 of Federation's Michigan Miracle
Mission 4 spent 90 minutes visiting Gilad School. Gilad
is a magnet arts school with 232 students in grades 1-6
and 18 teachers. Its namesake, Har Gilad, is just inside
Jordan, not far away.
Nastia Yamilov, 11, Orit Duhan, 12, Ivgenia Nikomarov, 12, and
The armed guard at the gate of the fenced school •
Dana Shveher, 11, all sixth graders at Gilad School.
grounds was yet another reminder that I was in Israel, a
sliver of a country in the war-torn Middle East and the
victim of relentless Palestinian terror.
ditions and pride. A March workshop in Detroit trained
Why we had come became clear when we walked into the
Central Galilee mentors to teach secular public school teachers
gym. The school orchestra was waiting to play and welcome
about this family initiative.
us to our ancestral homeland. The moment and the image
"Family education is a tool that educators in our partner
continue to pulsate for me. I was invigorated by the innocence
region very much need with all the new immigrants coming
and hope of the kids who are Israel's future. Small Israeli flags
in," Detroit Jewry's top educator, Harlene Appelman of the
and student prayers graced the gym walls in honor of Israel's
Alliance for Jewish Education, told me Monday night.
Gilad teacher Carmela Thakhman was among the Detroit
April 26 was Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day. The
visitors last March. Between orchestra sets Monday afternoon,
next day was Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
she said, "You just saw our best assets — our children, our
Thank God, the horror waged by Palestinian terrorists hasn't
future, our hope. We will finish the job we have so they can
broken the spirit of the bright-eyed, ethnically diverse kids
eventually take over."
who give Gilad resonance.
"With your support," she added, "we continue to make a
The 34-year-old school stresses the arts, music, social inter-
significant contribution to Israeli society"
action and Jewish values. "Whatever we do," said Principal
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit is in the
Reuveni Uri, "we do for the kids so they can be good citizens
midst of a three-year $30,000 award to the Frankel Center to
and responsive to their country and to our society."
enrich three Central Galilee schools, including Gilad. The
We guests sat with kids around a table set up especially for
Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County awarded $22,500
us in the gyrri. Each school speaker stressed the role of family
this year to Moshav Nahalal and Frankel Center North.
in nurturing young minds. These people get it; they under-
Michigan Jewry also supports the Central Galilee boarding
stand that the family is at the core of the Jewish universe.
day programs that keep kids in school for skill, social and sub-
Gilad includes new families from Russia, Morocco,
ject enrichment. Schools began to close after a half day when
Romania, Argentina and other lands. Most of the students
Israel's government diverted taxes from education to defense.
were born in Israel. "Each one who comes gives me more feel-
As our visit to Gilad School neared the end, Orit Duhan,
ing about this country" said parent Zipi Shniderman.
12, told us she was so glad her day was so full. "We meet each
Six Gilad students are Arab — five Christian and one
other, play together, do our homework and have a lot of dif-
Muslim. All speak Hebrew. "They've come to live here and are
ferent afternoon activities," she said.
treated just like we are," Shniderman said.
She's thankful so many parents help out. "They come to
A program on Arab-Jewish relations for students and the
school not only to the parents' meetings," she said, "but also
neighborhood is anticipated and badly needed, given the tenor
to take part in everything that is done here."
of the Mideast times. I felt a shiver when Luliam Sneer of the
"Our teachers, our fathers and mothers make us happy,"
Gilad School parents' group said, "We live together here."
Orit said. "We are one real family." El
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