Dear Friends and Supporters of Ein Bustan,
As the upcoming summer season approaches, I send you my warmest greetings.
In current-day Israel, Arabs and Jews live in two parallel yet separate groups lacking a common denominator, lacking common interests and motives, and failing to express any mutual empathy. Every few years, the negative feelings - anger, fear and frustration - boil over, evolving into murderous hatred. This hatred fuels the Arab-Jewish conflict in the Middle East, and as I see it, this hatred is also the explosive at the heart of the obstacle that faces all of humanity in this day and age, resulting in an unassailable barrier between West and East, and between the Judeo-Christian cultures and the believers of Allah.
A Hebrew -speaking Israeli, educated in the regular educational system, does not encounter the Arabic speaking culture at any stage of his or her studies. As an adult, he or she is completely unaware of the existence of the Arabic speaking population, including their rich and splendid culture. On some occasions in a Hebrew speaking Israeli's life, a whiff of something different reaches his nose, and he finds himself confused: the songs that are enjoyed by this culture leave him cold at best, or as is more commonly the case - are encountered with disgust. The needs and concerns of this population meet with complete indifference at best, and more commonly provoke anger. The perceptions of the Arabic speaking population awaken in him or her enormous anxiety, as well as survival instincts. At best, the Hebrew speaker feels justified. More commonly, he enlists in an all-out war and is not satisfied until he has killed and humiliated his enemy. It is of little wonder, then, that this area continues to create wars, and it is possible that these conflicts will continue to multiply and flourish, eventually dragging all of humanity into the abyss. Unless something changes…
The “Ein Bustan” kindergarten
is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural Waldorf kindergarten. Children of Arabic speaking and Hebrew speaking cultures study there together. The Waldorf method creates a serene, healthy and enabling expanse, one that refrains from confronting the children with the political situation, with the global economy and with modern-day alienation. As I perceive it, one of the original intentions of Rudolf Steiner, the spiritual teacher, was to provide us with a tool for solving social conflicts, and to open a window towards a better future. In my opinion, this is one of the important aspects of Waldorf education. When Ahmed and Avshalom play together, the two worrying paragraphs above become beside the point. And this is the reason that I find tears of excitement coming to my eyes as I write these lines. This, too, is the reason that I thank you for your interest in this project. As I write these words, I find myself gaining a greater understanding of what we are aiming for.
Our kindergarten will soon be completing its second year of activity.
Among the adult members - stormy winds are blowing. This is as it should be - for if all were quiet, it would not be believable. This reflects the deep work that is being done. With courageous steps, the partners of the project overcome every storm, and we are no longer afraid of an unexpected reaction. We have learned that there are essential differences between people, and we have taken this to heart. To be honest - sometimes we even enjoy this!
As far as the children are concerned, the kindergarten is flourishing. We opened the kindergarten with 14 children aged 4 - 6, and the first year concluded with 16 children. Today, with the third year arriving soon, and 8 children leaving for first grade, we have 20 additional families that have requested to join! Among them are parents of children that are as young as two and half. Children of this young age are able to play unhindered by language. On the other hand, 5 year olds play imaginative games that are dependant on language (“Let’s say that I am a lion cub that has lost it’s mother and you came to the forest and found me and wanted to caress me and take me to your home”…) Our experience from the past two years has shown us that at age 5 there are already significant differences. We decided to rise to the challenge and establish a group for the younger age set, and we are all very excited about this. The children are already knocking at the door, there are kindergarten teacher candidates that are interested in beginning to work and…
In the physical realm - we have not yet achieved all that we had hoped for. The kindergarten achieved official recognition by the Israel Ministry of Education, enabling us to be eligible for a budget. Not necessarily a generous budget, unfortunately, since the State of Israel tends to invest most of it’s resources in the field of battle rather than investing in education and a better future. However, even this minimal budget has yet to be received - to date we have not received even a single sheqel. For many months now, we have been sure that we are on the verge of receiving the budget, and each time it turns out that there is yet another step that must be traversed before that will take place. I must admit in all honesty that this is an exhausting process, and in my last communication with the Ministry of Education I made it clear that if they do not budget us shortly - soon there will be no one left to budget…Our financial situation dictates economy, and currently we are paying salaries only to the kindergarten teachers and the Eurythmy teacher (for which we received a donation). There is no budget for administration of the organization or for the development officer, and even our accountant works mostly on a volunteer basis. Obviously the garden and yard are not as nice as we would wish them to be, the second-hand stove works partially at best, the kitchen is not as we planned, and so on. The list is long, and we do not even dare to think about scholarships for those that have difficulty paying the tuition.
Our organization, like a living organism, needs to grow. In order to insure growth, we need to establish a class consisting of a younger group of children, as they are the future of the older group. However, the space that is intended for the younger group needs renovation, at a cost of approximately 30,000 NIS (approximately EURO 5600), a sum we do not have. If we are unable to obtain the sum, we will have to cut back the size of the group (perhaps by transferring some of the children to the older group) and make do with a space that is not as appropriate. I don’t wish to even consider the possibility that the younger class will not open at all…it will!
Recently we have been moved by the special gestures of people who have chosen to contribute to our kindergarten in honor of their life cycle events. A special note of thanks to the wedding guests of Rabbi Yael Romer, and to members of Temple Am Shalom
and the Chicago Waldorf school
that made donations in honor of Bekka Goldberg’s Bat Mitsva. We wish to express our gratitude to the Christian congregation in Arnhem, Holland, and to the many individuals that have helped us make a difference.
Before closing, an update of our latest news. A short while ago, we all got together, both children and parents, as well as some of the children that will join us next year, to celebrate the Jewish day of *Lag B’Omer
, in a wooded area near the kindergaten. The festivities included archery, circle games, and a campfire with songs and food.
For the Shavuot harvest festival
, we gathered in a nearby field of ripe wheat, and we braided wreaths, collected sheaves of wheat, and ate the wonderful holiday foods.
To complete the picture, I must add that we also celebrate the Moslem holidays together, and we receive an explanation of the meaning of the holiday and it’s customs from a representative of the celebrating culture.
Every get-together like this is like a miracle. It is so pleasant to be together,(Arabs and Jews) so simple, so natural. How is it that this is not the case in every kindergarten?! What is more conducive to opening one’s heart towards another and listening to another more than simply being together?
Another anecdote: I spent the month of April in Gloucestershire, England, with a group of Hebrew speaking teenagers from the Harduf High School (a regional Waldorf High School in the lower Galilee), and Arabic speaking teenagers from Shfaram, an Arab city close by. I must explain that cooperative initiatives of this sort between the youth of these two cultures are rarer than diamonds. We stayed at two **Camphill communities, (Oaklands and Grange Village), and with the assistance of some wonderful professionals from Israel and England, the children presented the play “One Thousand and One Nights” (also known as The Arabian Nights) in English, and subsequently put on the play for a local audience. The excitement was overwhelming. I have no words to describe the immensity of the miracle of this unique project. For two weeks of the three week time frame during which we worked on the play, the children experienced a crisis-like period to the point were it was unclear if there would be any play at all. However, as hard as the difficulties were, the success was equally as sweet! As a musician I composed music for the play, and as an educator I guided the children in their work. I pay my deepest respects to all of those that initiated and organized this project,
and am grateful to them and to the children for inviting me to work with them. I have no doubt that projects such as this light a ray of hope for our kindergarten, since our children are the youth of tomorrow.
Now, my friends, it is time to close. I thank you for your kind attention and support. The Ein Bustan project is powered by forces of love - and it belongs to those that love it - you and me. I thank the higher beings that have directed me to the present place and time, and brought me to this role.
Yours with many blessings,
(* Lag B’Omer
Lag Ba'Omer (ל"ג בעומר) is the shorthand way of saying the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer (literally, "Counting of the Sheaves") is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot (the Wheat harvest) The period of counting the Omer is a time of semi-mourning. Traditionally, the reason cited is that this is in memory of a plague that killed the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. Lag Ba'omer, the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, is considered to be the day in which the plague was lifted, so on that day, all the rules of mourning are lifted. It is a time of weddings, dancing and singing, picnics, outings, and bonfires. Children go out to the fields with their teachers with bows and arrows.
**A Camphill community is therapeutic community for people with developmental or learning disabilities, created by a group of people who live, learn and work together and derive inspiration from the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. The co-workers and those with special needs who come to communities live together in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Maayan Babustan Arab Jewish Waldorf Kindergarten
13 Narkisim St. 36073
Kiryat Tivon, Israel
Tax-exempt contributions to “Maayan Babustan” from the U.S. may be made through the New Israel Fund. The check should be made payable to “New Israel Fund”. The contributions should be marked as donor-advised to “Maayan Babustan”.Address in Washington:New Israel Fund, P.O.B. 91588, Washington DC, 20090-1588, U.S.A.
Donations from the Netherlands may be sent via Stichting Helias, care of Cornelis Boogerd and Vally Cornelius, Tel. 0318-414881 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations from Germany may be sent to FREUNDE DER ERZIEHUNGSKUNST RUDOLF STEINERS Weinmeisterstr. 16 10178 Berlin Tel. (030) 6170 2630, Fax -2633 E-Mail: freunde.waldorf(at)t-online.de