Tira and Hod Hasharon lie about 20km north of Tel Aviv and 8km inland. Tira became part of Israel as a result of the Rhodes Agreement of 1949. It's population of 22,000 is Sunni Muslim. Hod Hasharon is a Jewish town which evolved from the merging of several smaller agricultural municipalities. Both communinities' livelihood was originally centered on agriculture. Tira's farmers were the first in Israel to begin commercially growing strawberries, and Hod Hasharon was well known for growing citrus. Today, many of Tira's residents are employed by the state in the Ministry of Education, while Hod Hasharon has shifted to light industry and high tech.

The Schools

The El Najach school in Tira has 830 students from kindergarten to 6th grade (12 yrs. old). Arabic is the language of instruction, but students begin learning Hebrew from the second grade, and English from third grade. The school follows the national curriculum in all areas, except for special programs such as the religion of Islam. About half of the 42 faculty members hold Bachelor Degrees, and several hold Masters and Doctorate degrees. The school houses a computer lab, a science lab, a library, a technology room and has its own "mini" soccer pitch.

Sports Day - El Najach

The Democratic School - Hod Hasharon

The Domocratic School of Hod Hasharon was established in 2001 by a group of parents interested in exploring an education founded on democratic values. With a director and staff of 16 educators, the school serves about 115 students from the ages of 5 to 12. Much emphasis is placed on promoting social justice and egalitarian principles, as well as respect for others and for the natural environment. The school benefits from the strong involvement of staff, students, parents and community members, which allows the students to experience life in a community in which the individual rights of every member are respected and valued.

Before the Ukuleles for Peace program was introduced, there were virtually no communal or social ties between the communities of Tira and Hod Hasharon. Since the start of the program, however, contacts between the two have begun to develop on a number of levels.

At the most fundamental level is the orchestra itself. The children and some parents meet to rehearse and travel to performances together. Here, the children in particular began to form friendships, which lead to birthday party invitations, play dates and other social outings. The orchestra has held several picnics at which families have begun to interact and get to know one another.

The next level up involves the two schools. Three teachers at each school have taken the lead in bringing the two groups together. Special programs have been introduced around the Ukuleles for Peace project, such as parties in each town where the orchestra performs; events focused on learning about and celebrating one another's holidays and cultures; and a special class in Arabic, requested by the Jewish students at Hod Hasharon, and taught by the Head Master from El Najach school. These programs are involving students from both schools who are not part of the orchestra, thus widening the circle of contacts and furthering the mission of Ukuleles for Peace. Other programs--including a collaborative art project--are being planned.

In addition to participation in the Ukuleles for Peace program, the El Najach students participate in aother coexistence program through the Israeli Ministry of Education. The "Coexistence Forum" facilitates partnerships between Arab and Jewish schools. The El Najach school has invited Hod Hasharon Democratic school to be its partner in the Forum.

Our first joint family picnic

Joint celebration of Ramadan

Joint celebration of Shavuot