“For our own children, their first experience of Israel is exactly as I would want it to be; a nation of two people. “
In a week where two parallel festivals are being celebrated, that of Whitsun and Shavuot, we are reminded of our similarities across our cultures. Whitsun or Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot. The apostles were celebrating this festival when the Holy Spirit descended on them. The apostles then found themselves speaking in foreign languages, inspired by the Holy Spirit. With the unification of all cultures and nationalities under one umbrella being traditionally celebrated in Steiner schools at Whitsun, it struck me as a perfect time to share our experiences of the little known Arab Jewish Waldorf school in northern Israel, Ein Bustan.
We visited this kindergarten with our family in December; it has long been a dream of mine to do so. That a Jewish Waldorf school existed amazed me, let alone another 15 in Israel. But when I discovered that there was an Arab Jewish kindergarten, set up by a disillusioned Israeli peace activist and musician in 2005 for his children to have a real education, I got really excited.
We were welcomed with open arms and were part of their day straight away. They had waited for us to find them before setting off on their walk. We wove our way through the dry scrub, a burnt out car and some rubbish, at the bottom of the Bedouin village of Hilf in the Lower Galilee, and arrived at a beautiful clearing where I chopped apples for a snack. Then the children could relax and we were one of them. My Hebrew is rusty and my Arabic non- existent. But I was not Arab so I must speak Hebrew! And so must our children. We were bombarded with questions by the gorgeous going up children. But soon we were beyond words and all the children were recapturing a poor tortoise that they found on the walk, previously set free by the teachers but destined to be much loved and admired by many hands. It was all so normal. It was just kindergarten, of course. Except that everything is spoken and sung in both languages; the Arab children speak much more Hebrew than the Jewish children do Arabic, but that is the society at the moment. The teachers are from both cultures and for the Bedouin women, it counts as national service. It was all very real and had refreshingly rough edges.
Through the gate we entered their beautiful garden. There were big and small plans for it and Guy got stuck in with his hammer whilst Solly played in the sandpit. Once inside our girls immediately recognised where they were; the gentle approach; the peaceful, nourishing peach blossom of the walls, the natural toys, the stockmarr crayons; ring time of seasonal songs; the "winter" table; the blessings on the meals we shared with "hands on our hearts"; the clear, boundaried but loving approach of the teachers, the rhythm of the morning...I could go on. All this was deeply reassuring and a pleasure to experience in another culture. But what struck me deeply was how beautifully integrated the children are. Normal for children of course, but not the norm in Israeli society. In this school they live and play the equality for real. To experience this, at ones core, at this age, without conscious thought is surely the elixir for a lifetime of trust and love.
We were invited to several family's homes, alas with only time to visit one. And again the crayons, the gorgeous Waldorf educated children, instruments being practiced....home from home!
The following day we made challah (bread) for Shabbat and after garden time ( more tortoise torture- poor thing) we came in for a beautiful weekly celebration. We lit the candles, sang songs and gave our presents, very much appreciated, that had been so kindly donated by people from our school. Then after a story, the bread was given to each child, who was blessed in both languages, with Amir, the founder, singing and playing his flute and guitar. Such a vision, humbling and moving to be part of such a moment in time.
For our own children, who are half Jewish, their first experience of Israel is exactly as I would want it to be; a nation of two people.
Ein Bustan is a unique environment that uses the healing umbrella of Waldorf education, perfect for war torn cultures. It is in need of longterm support so that it can grow beyond the kindergarten and educate for the future of Israel. They are opening their first class one in September, the first of its kind. They need everything.
I hope that our school may become twinned with Ein Bustan, something they would warmly welcome, and an enriching experience for us too. There would be possibilities of exchanges, for teachers, individuals and families. Shared parallels in our calendars. And opportunities to help financially and the possibility to become a sponsor. (16 children need sponsorship this coming year. If 20 people were able to give £10 a month that would sponsor a child through kindergarten or class 1.)
It seems entirely possible to make a real difference.
Maayan Babustan(Ein Bustan) POB 206, Kiryat Tivon 36011
Tel 972-53-4206133 Fax 972-4-9833688 firstname.lastname@example.org