Ein Bustan:Arab-Jewish Education - Wonderful Beginnings
Sowing Seeds of Hope and Peace
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Summary of the first lesson period  -  Bi-lingual Waldorf 

By Hasna Suwaed

During our first four weeks Amir and I taught figure drawing and movement. Our work with the children in our special pilot group started with drawing Mr. Straight and Mr. Curved, and these gradually developed into more figures. A story accompanied this lesson block, with gnomes, Tirlib the Leader, and a princess who went on a quest to find the Water of Life for her ailing mother. We “walked” the figures on a rope, we drew them with our bodies, we sang, and finally, we drew them in the notebooks. At the end of this period we drew some of the figures in chalk outside, and walked on them. Then we said goodbye to the figures and progressed to letters.

Now we are learning the letters. We commenced learning the letters by telling the “Story of The Letters”* (*see separate article with the story itself),

a story that we adapted from the traditional Waldorf curriculum so that it would be appropriate for a class containing two different cultures. The story relates that there were many boxes of letters in the sky, and the man chose not one but two boxes, each different from the other, each one beautiful and amazing. The story continued to develop based on the letters and order that we decided upon. On earth, two mothers were walking about the world, each had come from a different place and they meet at the entrance to the forest. The started talking to each other and became friends. We developed the “aleph” - the first letter in Hebrew - and the first letter in Arabic, from the [picture of] two mothers.  One mother remarks on the wonder of the beautiful forest, and the other mother is thankful for the beautiful place that she shares with her friend. The story continues and develops, with each consequent letter signifying something in the story, until they reach the lovely, beautiful and valuable word “vered” (Hebrew) or “ward” in Arabic  "ورد" [“vered” translates as “rose”in English and “ward” is a general term in Arabic that means “flower”.] I describe the developments here only to the point that we reached with the children and not all of what we have yet planned. After we experience the things with the children it makes us excited and happy.

Here is what part of main lesson is like:

At the beginning of the day, at the entrance to the classroom, we shake each child’s hand and gaze in their face, to get a feel for what is happening with each one - not just greeting them with “good morning”. We sit down. While Amir plays the recorder, we wordlessly invite attentiveness through our actions: Boker Tov (Good morning in Hebrew), Sabach El Hir (Good morning in Arabic) to the teachers and to the children, lighting a candle in silence and reciting our morning verse which is translated from Steiner. We recite in both Arabic and Hebrew and sing a morning song. We then choose a song and story that we sing and act out during our outdoor walk. After the short walk, we enter the classroom again, drink water, and start a circle with verses which are related to the subject we are studying and/or what is happening around us in the natural world. Now, for example, we are reciting verses that are related to the Autumn season.

The first time we held a watercolor painting class was amazing.  The children were very curious about what was going to happen. Before we started the painting class, we told a story. Obviously the story had a little girl, a conflict, and a solution in the end. There were also three colors. I started with two colors: the yellow and the blue. I had a feeling that it would be preferable to start off with two colors and not one [as is generally common in Waldorf pedagogy of the first grade]. Being attentive to what is going on in the class, to situations that have evolved, to what we aspire for - these are what guide our actions. I really did not expect things to be so wonderful. The children, and I, myself, (probably thanks to the children) experience something great that no words can describe.

 One of the things we experienced was the intimacy that was created between two girls: one is always complaining  about the other, who is jealous of her and imitates her. This time the opposite occured. I demonstrated painting with the yellow paint, I told a story of how the yellow went out to play, and how the blue came to hug him, and afterwards the children started to paint. I was waiting expectantly to see how the painting would influence them and if they would surprise me.  The girl who usually complains, did exactly the opposite. She drew a face with closed eyes, and then asked her friend to copy her. The friend then drew for her a face that was smiling and happy. The girl then turned to me and said : “Look, she has drawn a happy face!”

I said to her: “Yes, my dear, she drew a smiling face because she has a good friend that embraces her, like the yellow embraced the blue”. The girl smiled happily and stood watching her friend’s painting (with the closed eyes). I said to her: “Perhaps now, after he smiles, the yellow has happily gone to sleep”.

I chose to work with two colors due to the special situation of the class [referring to the fact that there are two cultures/languages and also the tension between the two girls] and because I wished to create an atmosphere of duality and joy. The first child painted a face that was sleeping, quiet and calm. Feeling confident and proud of her painting, she approached the other and asked her to do as she had done. The other child, who felt the love and acceptance of her friend, was filled with happiness, which in turn expressed itself in the yellow’s smiling face.

Amir and Hasna in morning circle
 Hasna with the children

This is just an example of the beauty and wonder that take place in this special class.

 I am very grateful to all the people who are giving their support, thereby creating acceptance, joy and love, which form the basis for peace. Additionally, I am grateful to God and pray that he will give us the awareness and attentiveness to do our best and act in the best way for the good of the children and for all of us.


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