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raceAhead: Jerusalem’s True Believers, Valerie Jarrett’s Next Move, Pearl Harbor Day Revisited

Today, people in the U.S. woke up to a Middle East on edge, after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday.

The news sent shockwaves throughout the world. But Palestinians, who also see Jerusalem as their capital city, were particularly stunned. The announcement breaks with decades of U.S. diplomacy, and appears to end any role the U.S. may have sought to play as a neutral peace broker.

Angry clashes have already been reported, and the city is anxious about Friday, the Muslim holy day for weekly mass prayers. “Talk of a new uprising (intifada) after Trump’s statement on Jerusalem,” NBC’s Richard Engel reported via Twitter. “Palestinians say peace process hasn’t worked.”

In search of understanding and perhaps a bit of hope, I spent time learning about The Max Rayne Hand in Hand School, the only school in Jerusalem where Arab and Jewish kids learn together. It’s a radical experiment in peace-making through inclusion and understanding, now under siege yet again.

The school’s video explainer is enough to get you inspired:

When you raise children in a war zone, when Jewish and Arab children do not meet each other in their day to day life, when they are divided, and they go to separate schools, how do you make sure that they don’t hate every person from the other side? You bring them together.

All classes are run by two teachers and taught in Arabic and Hebrew, a far less cumbersome arrangement than one might think. Pre-school kids learn both alphabets at the same time, and unless they are sharing specifics about their lives, there is typically no way to tell who is Arab and who is Jewish.

There are now Hand in Hand schools in six cities around Israel. The Jerusalem location is more than ten years old.

Jerusalem is a uniquely complicated city, which makes the school even more notable. As this 2016 report from Israel’s Channel Two points out, “In the most conflicted and blood-soaked city, with the uttermost fear and distrust between nations, Jews and Arabs sit together in a mixed group and it doesn’t seem unusual to any of them,” says reporter Tzion Nanous. “We’re the sane ones,” says co-principal Nadia Kinani. “When some people say that we’re a bubble, I think that’s what’s happening outside is not realistic.”

But they are in the thick of things. In 2014, the school was hit in an arson attack, after a series of escalating incidents. Books were set alight destroying two first grade classrooms and threatening messages were left behind: “There is no coexistence with cancer” and “Kahane was right,” referring to the controversial Rabbi Meir Kahane, who called Arabs “dogs” and advocated for their removal.

The school responded by making and hanging a banner that said, “There is cooperation, love and friendship here between Arabs and Jews.” Then thousands of Arab and Jewish parents and other supporters marched together with balloons, red clown noses, drums and signs, chanting, “We continue together, without hatred or fear,” and “We won’t be stopped.”

But the pressure is constant. One Arab parent of fourth-grader told Channel Two’s Nanous that when asked by his teacher what smells he associates with autumn, his answer was tear gas. (At the 6:35 mark.)

Since students are often the same age, living in the same neighborhoods as the people who commit the violence, the school encourages students to face the issues head-on.

As a result, eleventh-graders who should be worrying about dating and college prep are talking about bombings, checkpoints, and struggling to work out who is a terrorist and who is a martyr with an enemy who is also their lifelong friend. “They don’t agree with each other, their parents don’t agree with each other,” said one teacher. “The common ground is that they choose to be together.”

And that means the mundane moments are particularly sweet. “Why should I argue with him about who is or isn’t a terrorist, if I can argue with him about what we’re going to eat for lunch?” says a student named Tala Jabara.

The extended community that has invested in the Hand in Hand concept all believe that their method is the only way forward. As compelling as it is, it’s hard not to imagine their voices being overrun in the chaos that now seems inevitable.

But as I told my editor, Stacy Jones, after spending a few hours watching videos and learning more about the people who believe in the school, I feel like I have new friends in Jerusalem.

Proximity, even the technologically-enabled kind, is such a gift. But it’s also an act of faith.

On Point

Valerie Jarrett joins the board of edutech company 2UIt’s the third corporate board she’s joined this year, after Lyft and Chicago-based asset management firm Ariel Investments. But, she says, mission and culture are her personal drivers. 2U helps top universities, including Harvard and Georgetown, bring their master’s programs online. “I’m a beneficiary of an extraordinary education and I believe that no matter where you live, the access to education is key to social mobility.” And 2U is clearly serious about inclusion — Jarrett is now the third woman and fourth person of color to join the board.Fortune

Area man who was refused service by rogue clerk vows to modernize local government
In 2015, Kim Davis earned international fame for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses as required by her job as Kentucky’s Rowan County clerk. David Ermold was one of the people she denied, twice. Yesterday, he was back in her office for another reason. He’s gunning for her job. “I have an obligation here, really, to do this and to set things right,” Ermold told The Associated Press. Ermold, a local professor, is taking the job seriously and pledges to be humble, open and transparent. “As county clerk, I will act responsibly with taxpayer money, and I will seek out ways to be cost-efficient and avoid unnecessary expenses. I will continually look at ways to modernize the current processes in place to create a more convenient experience,” he promises on his campaign website.

Breaking: Harper Lee would not have voted for Roy Moore
Regional stories with broader implications are often an opportunity to discover and highlight exceptional local journalism. This is the umpteenth time I’ve linked to an story in the past year, thanks in part to the national interest in Senate candidate Roy Moore. The publication is uniformly excellent, and this extraordinary opinion piece is just another example. It’s by Wayne Flynt, an Alabama historian, Baptist minister and longtime friend of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee. He begins by sharing part of an eerily prescient letter Lee wrote him in 2006. “I dread the advent of Roy Moore’s administration but it’s coming sure as doomsday. What is wrong with us? Are you old enough to remember when people were less ignorant? I am.” His answer will restore your faith.

Meet Kim Kimble, the hair queen behind A Wrinkle In Time
It’s far too soon to say that diversity behind the camera is becoming a new normal. But celebrity stylist Kim Kimble, who ran the hair department for the upcoming Disney/Duvernay joint A Wrinkle in Time, gets us one step closer. Enjoy this smart, dishy piece on Kimble and her work on set from The Grio. “Although Kimble is used to having her hands on the most famous heads in the business including Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, she admits she was floored by the names on her call-sheet.” Then, watch the trailer again and let the hair magic, which included more than 50 custom wigs, bewitch you.
The Grio

The Woke Leader

Viola Davis knows some things about being poor
The Academy Award-winning national treasure has taken many opportunities to advocate for the poor, most recently as an honoree at the ACLU Bill of Rights Awards gala. She told a devastating story about her father being denied essential health care, after a three-hour walk in 12-degree weather. “That is the dignity being taken away from you when you don’t have any money. You don’t have access to health care. You have no food.” She has also talked about stealing food as a child, and the heartbreaking story behind the only picture that exists of her as a child – a kindergarten class photo. “I have this expression on my face — it’s not a smile, it’s not a frown. I swear to you, that’s the girl who wakes up in the morning and who looks around her house and her life saying, ‘I cannot believe how God has blessed me,’” Davis told People.
Huffington Post

Pearl Harbor Day: The date that lived on and on in infamy
My colleagues Grace Donnelly and Alex Scimecca have done an outstanding job explaining not only the Pearl Harbor attack, but how the U.S. responded in its aftermath. “In the wake of the attack, prejudice-fueled rumors spread about Japanese-Americans sabotaging the war effort. Many American media outlets, including Fortune, painted a racist picture of the enemy as well as Japanese immigrants and their American-born children living in the U.S.. Time magazine published “How to Tell Your Friends from the Japs” two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, outlining the differences between stereotypes of Chinese and Japanese people.” Hollywood didn’t help much, either.

“[A] rumor was going around that the Americans were saving something special for the city…”
In 1945, The New Yorker assigned reporter John Hersey to tackle what was then a current topic: The bombing of Hiroshima, specifically through the eyes of survivors. After traveling several times to Japan, Hersey turned in a 10,000-word treatise. It was originally planned for four parts, but it was published as a single issue in August 1946. It was quietly dramatic. While it ran with a  typical cover — no special fanfare — there was nothing else in the issue, not even the signature cartoons. The story was excerpted around the world, even read in its entirety on the radio. The New Yorker made it available in full online in 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing and it’s just as powerful today.
The New Yorker


Mr. Yoshida saw the wooden mission house—the only erect building in the area—go up in a lick of flame, and the heat was terrific on his face. Then flames came along his side of the street and entered his house. In a paroxysm of terrified strength, he freed himself and ran down the alleys of Nobori-cho, hemmed in by the fire he had said would never come. He began at once to behave like an old man; two months later his hair was white.
John Hersey