April 14, 2024
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Israeli-Arab StandWithUs Educator Addresses Ma’ayanot Students

On Monday, November 27, Yahya Mahamid, a 19-year-old Israeli-Arab, spoke to students at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School about his journey from growing up in Umm Al-Fahm, an Arab city in Northern Israel, to becoming a Zionist and an educator with StandWithUs, a non-profit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization.

Mahamid described how he was indoctrinated from a young age to hate Jews and deny Israel’s statehood. However, his opinions began to shift when, as a teenager, he began working with Jews in a Tel Aviv hotel. The more he experienced regular interactions with Israelis, the more he began to challenge the negative views he had been encouraged to develop. One day during Sukkot, he encountered a Chabad member on the street who asked if he had put on tefillin. “I told him I’m an Arab,” said Mahamid. “The man said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or not. What matters is if you’re a good person.’” This interaction left a deep impression on him.

In June 2014, when three Israeli teens, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, were kidnapped, Mahamid felt strongly that “violence will get us nowhere.” He posted a photo of himself on social media holding an Israeli flag with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys. Unexpectedly, his post went viral, leading to deaths threats and arrests. After quitting his job and cloistering himself in his house for two months, Mahamid received a message in Arabic asking if he would be interested in joining StandWithUs as an educator.

Since then, he has travelled around the world from the U.S. to South Africa with StandWithUs, speaking to students and combatting the negative stereotypes and demonization of Israel. When asked why he does this, he says, “I believe in democracy, freedom and human rights. I look at Israel and see a future not only for Jewish people but also as an example for the entire region…Israel is not a perfect country, but it’s the only place in the Middle East where minorities are thriving, religion is respected and individuals are treated as human beings.”

Asked about the future of peace in the region, he said, “Education is the road to peace.” He encouraged students to educate themselves to become better ambassadors for Israel.

Freshman Gabi Shabayeva said, “He is very heroic and courageous to stand up for his beliefs despite threats. That compels me to stand up for my beliefs as well.” The event was sponsored by Mario and Sarah Guralnik, parents of Kayla, a junior at Ma’ayanot, as well as the Ma’ayanot Israel Action Political Committee (MIPAC). Adira Levine, a Ma’ayanot senior and StandWithUs intern, helped arrange the visit.

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