The Swiss woman uniting people in Jerusalem

0 16

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Source: Swiss Info


Irène Pollak-Rein has been made an honorary citizen of Jerusalem for her dedication to the only school open to both Jewish and Arab children.

Pollak-Rein’s interest in the region dates back to 1967, when Israeli general Yitzchak Rabin, who had just won the Six Day War, gave a lecture in Basel. Irène, then just 17 years old, attended.


Feeding the poor and needy is an act that draws us closer to Allah. We earn His forgiveness, mercies and blessings through this act of charity.

“Anyone who looks after and works for a widow and a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah?s cause, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all night. (Bukhari)

“I didn’t understand any Hebrew or what Rabin was saying. But I hung on to his every word,” she recalled.  It made such an impression that two years later, as a student, she moved to Jerusalem and it became her home.

Now 70, Pollak-Rein has just been given the “Yakir Jerusalem” award, which makes her an honorary citizen of the city. It recognises her long-standing commitment to Jerusalem and its citizens: she has been fundraising among German-speaking countries for the non-governmental Jerusalem Foundation for over 20 years.

The focus of the NGO, one of the most well-known in the city, is social, educational and cultural projects. It is perhaps best known for the Hand in Hand School – the only school in the world where Arab and Jewish children are taught together from kindergarten right up to their school-leaving examination.

Swissness in the classroom

Former Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey enabled the launch of the school with a donation of CHF3 million ($3.3 million) in 2003. Every classroom has a Swiss cantonal coat of arms on display, with historical information about the canton in Hebrew, Arabic and in the languages of the cantons. The coats of arms show the pupils that even a peaceful place like Switzerland did not come into being overnight.

Despite its prominence, this project is not representative of all Jerusalem, said Pollak-Rein. It is, after all, the only school of its kind, she said. But deep down the Swiss is convinced that “Jerusalem is the most tolerant city in the world”, it’s just the reputation that doesn’t live up to this.

“When you think of Jerusalem, you think of conflicts. Yet there is more diversity and democracy experienced here than any other place,” she said. You see people of all religions in Jerusalem, living alongside each other, she added.

“In Jerusalem it’s completely normal that everyone lives so close to each other. But actually, it borders on a miracle.”

Fight against poverty

But this is not enough for the historian. She wants to push the city forward and, above all, improve the education system. Jerusalem is one of the poorest cities in the country because of high unemployment among its Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish citizens. For the ultra-Orthodox Jews, this is due to religious reasons, as they are supported for studying religion. Among the Arab population, the fact that women often do not work means increased unemployment.

“We want to make it easier for everyone to enter the job market, without changing anyone. We have to create the right framework conditions that lead Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox population to accept our help and become part of the workforce,” said Pollak-Rein. For her, this step is essential for the future of the city.


Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Proposing Daryl Davis as a Peace Maker for Palestinians and Israel, for he attends KKK rallies, despite being black

How can we build the Third Temple together?

Joel Osteen’s Video: Enlarging the Circle of Love

Corona Fear’s Cure: Chanting from the Bible and the Quran

The Muslim Times Leading the Way to Interfaith Tolerance Among Abrahamic Faiths

A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths

A Muslim woman confronts a man targeting children with anti-Semitic abuse on London train

True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament

Is Human Life Sacred: The Body and the Spirit?

I Was Raised Muslim By an Ex-Catholic and a Former Jew. Here’s What Ramadan Teaches Me That No Other Holiday Has

The Muslim Times Has the Best Collection to Understand Anti-Semitism and Promote Universal Brotherhood

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

Video Book Review: The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

Muslim Groups Raise Thousands For Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Victims

Celebrity Jewish-Arab wedding stirs mixed feelings in Israel

Psalm 53 – A psalm of David: A Message of Hope

Einstein’s Quote on Human Compassion

Sharon Brous: It’s time to reclaim and reinvent religion – Ted Talk

Jewish Perspective on the Rights of Neighbors

Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy