Ein Bustan:Arab-Jewish Education - A Life Changing Experience
Sowing Seeds of Hope and Peace
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Amir Shlomian
* Shfaram Junction
 
The first days of autumn
yet the sun is still stubborn
Everyone is hot at the Shfaram junction
A heavy cloud
of anger,
of hostility,
and a storm of fire is brewing
 
Shorn of belief, an evil impulse clutches the heart
Loveless, the heart is overcome by the demon
Smiling with satisfaction above the cloud of anger
Pointing below as everything suddenly trembles
The steering wheels of the cars are grasped by fury like lightening
Furious calls from the village echo like thunder
But my tears, tears of mercy, wash through the street
I will be confused no more
Since Peace will soon be here.
 
What will happen now?
The sun is still holding it’s own
Everyone is hot at the Shfaram junction
Burning tires
alight with fire
Anger and hostility
But a raging river flows from my heart
 
A hundred years of confusion pass as sense returns
Years of forgetfulness pass with the return of memory
The dark night
ends with morning’s light
Hate and cold ended with sparks of peace
When one realizes that there is no way back
Wars will make no difference – regard this as a tiding.
It’s waiting within us,
It’s here, it’s here.
I will be confused no more
Since Peace will soon be here. 

 

A Life Changing Experience
 
Some personal words from Amir Shlomian, Founder of the  Ein Bustan Arab Jewish Kindergarten
 
Translation from Hebrew: Rachel Gottlieb
 
In Fall of 2000 I had an experience that changed my life.
The experience never lost its relevancefor me, despite the fact that at times it seems to me that the story is that of someone else.
 
Fall…I had just finished my day’s work at the school in Harduf, a small kibbutz in the Galilee, in the North of Israel. An inner impulse caused me to drive back home on a different route than the one that I normally took. Someone said that some kind of incident or riot was going on in the direction of Shfaram, an Arab town.
 
When I arrived at the intersection near Shfaram,there were numerous cars in front of me. It felt like a normal traffic jam, but when nothing seemed to move, I left my car in order to find out what was holding everybody up.
 
I walked forward past the lined up cars, and arrived at the intersection itself. I didn’t see very much: one or two burning tires that were releasing an acrid smell into the air, and half an oil drum with something in it. It all looked fairly simple to move. I needed a little help. I returned to the parked cars and hinted to the first driver whose attention I was able to catch that he should come and assist me. The man turned his head and ignored my request. The second turned his head as soon as he saw me. The third opened his window and shouted to me that I was crazy, that terrible things were happening out there, that I should get into my car immediately. I understood that at that intersection there was more than what met my eye, and that these people were not free to leave their cars. I felt a powerful sense of fear in the man’s shouted sentences. Paralyzing fear. On a rise above us, I saw a few people standing. Perhaps some stunned residents of Shfaram. Certainly not those that had set the tires alight.
 
I shouted some friendly greetings in their direction, but they were farther away than ever, even if they could literally hear my words. I couldn’t move the tires or the oil drum by myself. I continued to walk back and forth through the intersection, looking for help. Suddenly, I saw an astonishing group of people heading in my direction, like a scene from some movie. Wearing helmets, protected with bulletproof vests, clubs in hand. I remember that I chose to estimate their number, so that I could hold on to an objective realistic fact when this hallucination had passed. Seventy. That is what I said to myself: today I find it difficult to believe.
 
They were lined up in rows, elbows flung to the sides; they had come to Clear The Way. Amazingly, they paid no attention to me. It seemed like they had not seen me, despite the fact that I was standing just a few meters away. It was as if my freedom from the forces threatening all the rest of those present at the intersection had released me from their attention. I looked at them with tears in my eyes. What have you actually come to do?! I felt alone. Helpless. I wanted to explain to everybody how much they were actually creating the situation.
 
I knew that a lot would be said about the burning intersection. Sure enough, a day had not gone by and the newspaper headlines reported riots throughout Israel – “The October 2000 Riots”. The repercussions of those events are still creating our evolving reality. Who will now believe that there was so little of significance at the intersection that day! How simple it would have been to clear it all up. It was obvious that a small (perhaps even tiny) group of frustrated and suffering youths were responsible for the act, and the wider public had nothing to do with it. Fear, however, envelopes us all, and it hardens into hate. A great, fiery, violent fear. Those events generated anger and fear that resulted in the deaths of innocent bystanders. And there is no end to it.
 
I wanted to explain but there was no one to explain it to. I saw Fear itself as a huge and mocking entity. It knew I was beyond it’s field of influence, but since it was completely beyond my influence, and so much stronger than myself, I imagined that I heard it’s laughter. The event is ingrained in my memory like a karma-like meeting. I knew that my mission would become clear afterward. Sentences started forming of themselves within me, and they converged in a poem. *
 
The poem, which was set to music, received the title “Shfaram Junction”, and was recorded in a Tel Aviv recording studio with some close friends that responded to the restless energy that possesses me at times. I was lucky enough to have it played over the radio. I also traveled around with my guitar, playing and singing at all kinds of “Good Neighbors” and “Sulha” festivals (note: Israeli Peace gatherings). However, it’s difficult to say if any of this brought about the fulfillment of my mission, or resulted in the hoped-for catharsis. To prove the point: here I am, retelling the story once again. One thing that is clear to me, then and now: if I do nothing with this karma-like experience, if I do not do my part to dispel the fear and unravel the knot of violent feelings, there is no justification for my life in this geographic space. After all, why live near the mouth of the volcano? Further to this conclusion, I found new meanings in my life.
 
  
The event described here, which took place in October 2000, left me with an insight regarding my role in this life, and one of my missions: negative emotions lead to destruction and ruin. These emotions may be channeled, changed, made into a positive force, much as the wind can be either a destructive or extremely practical force! How might this be done?? I asked myself.
 
While searching for practical solutions, I initiated a monthly listening circle that was active for four years. The participants were Arabs and Jews, in more or less equal numbers. Two languages were heard: Arabic and Hebrew. People were invited to share their painful emotions in a supportive and loving environment. At times, extreme opinions and ideas were voiced. The listening space can absorb a lot!
 
I often ask myself: am I doing enough to assume responsibility for that which is going on around me? For at any minute – a new war might break out. An end to this tense situation, to this nightmarish circle, seems nowhere in sight: violence-mourning-revenge…violence-mourning-revenge…
 
My continuing quest for a meaningful contribution that would bring about a lessoning of violence caused me to found the kindergarten project “Ein Bustan.” I knew that I must gather my life forces, and entwine them with that of my deepest beliefs. Therefore, I spent much effort to start the “Ein Bustan” Kindergarten from a father’s viewpoint: my eldest son is now participating for his second year in a multicultural kindergarten.
 

Ein Bustan Families enjoy a picnic together

Eid El Adha celebrations in the Ein Bustan kindergarten, January 2007

In the last month I have participated in kindergarten events for Hanukah, Christmas and Eid El Adha. It gives me even greater pleasure to observe the kindergarten children, Jews and Moslems alike, wearing white, singing a Moslem holy day song and walking around a model of the Kaaba (Moslem Holy Place)in the kindergarten, as the pilgrims do on their way to the Holy site of Mecca. This is so unbelievable, yet possible! From such beautiful celebrations I find strength to rise and do more and more of the impossible.
 
For we will continue to build our world based on the strength of Belief and Love. Thoughts create reality. Let us join together our thoughts towards a better future. It is better that our world be shaped by our lofty dreams than our darkest fears.
 
Thank you for reading this.
 
Amir Shlomian
January, 2007
 

 

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