Mayor de Blasio talks to children from a mixed Israeli-Palestinian school in Beit Shemesh, Israel.
“This is an example of the way forward,” de Blasio said after meeting kids and parents from the Hand in Hand school.
De Blasio poses for a photo with Arab and Jewish children on Saturday from the Hand in Hand Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools during an olive harvesting event near Tzora, west of Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM — On his first visit to Israel as mayor amid heightened tension in the country, Mayor de Blasio stressed the need for peace while meeting Jewish and Arab families whose kids go to school side by side.
The message of hope later took a somber turn Saturday night as de Blasio stopped at a Jerusalem hospital to visit victims of recent terror attacks.
“It’s a tough moment,” de Blasio said. “It’s a painful moment here in Israel. It’s a moment when I’m certainly here in solidarity with the people of Israel. But at the same time we have to think of every way to support those who are trying to move things forward — and look to a day when there is greater understanding.”
Hizzoner arrived in Israel at a time when the nation is locked in a whirlwind of violence. More than two dozen attacks in recent weeks have killed at least seven Israelis, mostly in Jerusalem. There were three more stabbing attempts Saturday morning, and all three attackers were killed.
De Blasio met students and parents from the Hand in Hand school as they were touring an olive grove and vineyard at the Mony Winery in Beit Shemesh, outside of Jerusalem.
The school brings Jewish, Arab, Israeli and Palestinian kids together in the same classrooms, teaching in both Hebrew and Arabic. It is a rarity in Israel, where education is usually separate.
De Blasio said he was struck to hear parents and kids alike say they didn’t have any friends across cultural lines until joining the school.
“The Jewish children did not have Arab friends and Arab children did not have Jewish friends. And that level of separation obviously makes it hard to move forward,” he said. “Now because of the school they’re actually sitting down at the same table and breaking bread. That’s inspiring.”
De Blasio shared a toast in both languages — “Saha” in Arabic and “L’Chaim” in Hebrew — with a group of parents and kids seated around a table nestled in a cave at the vineyard.
“Kids grow up in this country being scared of the other. No matter if they’re Jewish or Palestinian, they’re scared of the other,” said Bali Streett, who is Jewish and the mom of three kids at the school.
The school brings Jewish, Arab Israeli and Palestinian kids together in the same classrooms, teaching in both Hebrew and Arabic.
“Kids growing up in this community, they’re not scared,” she said. “They learn to respect each other.”
Morad Muna, 35, said some of his fellow Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been puzzled by his decision to send his 7-year-old son to the school.
“Palestinians in East Jerusalem are occupied. They see the other side as the soldiers, the police men … they feel that the other side is an enemy for them,” he said, adding he thought it was a “big opportunity” that the New York mayor had chosen to listen to the views of Palestinians.
“We are two separate places,” he said. “It’s one city, but it’s two separate places, East and West.”
Hand in Hand was torched in an arson attack by right-wing extremist Jews last year. CEO Shuli Dichter said the demand for seats has exploded since then.
“We were a little worried last year because we thought this might discourage parents from joining us. But it was the other way around,” he said.
Hours later, de Blasio joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to visit victims at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.
They spoke to a woman stabbed in a bus attack and the wife of a man still fighting for his life from the same attack, and a man hurt when an assailant drove a car into a crowd at a bus stop and then came at people with a hatchet.
“You can’t think about acts of terrorism like this in the abstract when you meet the victims and you meet the families. It becomes very real,” de Blasio said. “There can’t be peace when civilians are wantonly attacked just for going about their business.”
De Blasio speaks to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at the Tel Aviv promenade, where they joked about the Israel city’s superior beaches.
The woman stabbed in the bus attack, Maria Veldman, is a nurse and a foster mom to 20 Arab children.
“You could see the stab wound on her chest. And instead of talking about anger and hatred, she talked about love and a desire to resume her mission,” de Blasio said.
Barkat said New Yorkers understand what his city is going through since the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The decision to come to our city now especially during these challenging times when Israel and Jerusalem are experiencing a cruel wave of terror that targets … innocent civilians is an expression of true friendship,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, de Blasio had brunch with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at Manta Ray, a seaside restaurant in the city, dining on shakshuka and discussing the security situation.
“Innocent civilians are being attacked. It’s undermining the sense of security in this country. And it’s morally wrong,” de Blasio said.
On a lighter note, Huldai gifted his New York counterpart with a beach towel, flip-flops and a paddle ball set as they joked about the superiority of Tel Aviv’s beaches.
“Coney Island is wonderful — but you have something very special here,” de Blasio said.