Her friend Rami Nassar, who is also 11, has two Arab parents. In proud, fluent English, he tells me that this Jerusalem school, which educates 530 students
from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, really could one day shift from the exception to the rule.
"A lot of people don't believe it's possible to learn the way that we do, together," he says. "But we feel differently. We are just kids, and we are doing
something small, just learning together, but that's the start of something big."
There are currently four Hand in Hand schools across Israel, educating some 900 pupils in total. The Jerusalem campus, founded in 1997, is the flagship and
the largest. The other schools are in the Galilee, in a rural part of northern Israel; in Wadi Ara, an Arab region near Haifa; and in Haifa proper, where a
brand-new daycare and preschool was opened in September and where administrators hope a new school will grow by one grade each year. A fifth campus, in Tel
Aviv-Yafo, is in the works.
Each classroom has two teachers; one Jew and one Arab. Students are split nearly fifty-fifty along ethnic lines. Coursework is done in both languages and
when Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays appear on the calendar, students celebrate them together, acknowledging the customs that are their own and
learning how to appreciate those that belong to their classmates.
The schools are public and fully recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education. To absorb the additional costs created by having double teachers, as well
as smaller classes, the Hand in Hand schools receive funding from international donors. The Jerusalem campus also benefits from support from the Jerusalem
Foundation, which sponsors more than 4,000 cultural, educational, and developmental projects in Israel's capital.
Parents at the school say their children are growing up to stand apart from the rest of Israeli society - and that's a good thing.
"They are definitely different," Merav Carmeli, who has three children enrolled in the Jerusalem school, says. "I'm Jewish, and I look at the Jewish kids,
the way that they look at other people - Muslims, Christians. They get to go to their houses. I grew up in Israel and I was never friends with Arab kids
and I knew nothing about them except from what I saw on TV. They are very lucky."
Samar Jabber-Massarwa (no relation to Lian), who is Arab, agrees.
"For me, really, there was no other alternative in Jerusalem. I'm not going to send my kids to a Jewish school because then they're going to be the
'Arabs,' the different ones," she says.
But sending them to an all-Arab school was also out.
"I also didn't want them to grow up in a very homogenous one way of
thinking, of this is right and this is wrong," she says.
Students at Hand in Hand schools routinely outscore their peers on the Israeli matriculation exams, which are similar to the SAT, are disproportionately
represented at national contests and academic fairs, and have a higher rate of college attendance. In addition, in a study carried out by Zvi Bekerman and
Nader Shhadi from Hebrew University comparing students from bilingual schools to those from monolingual ones, the bilingual students were better-spoken.