As we near the end of the school year in Ein Bustan, the days are growing warmer and summer will soon be here. The golden wheat
in the surrounding fields has been harvested, and we recently celebrated the harvest festival in a unique Arab-Jewish celebration, that you can read about inAmir and Hasna’s articles. Now is an appropriate time to celebrate our own “harvest” - the fruits of our seventh year in the bi-lingual Waldorf kindergarten in Hilf.
Looking back over the past few months, it has been an amazing year. We grew from 2 groups to 4, including a toddler group for two year olds, and our pilot pioneer first grade class, with Hasna and Amir. We renovated and a beautiful new setting (our “Nissan” building and yard) and development has continued throughout the year. With the help of parents, staff and volunteers, we transformed a neglected building and weed-filled and dusty yard into an inviting space with grass, sandpit, a cement footpath, fence (still not completed) gates, and covered porches leading into the classrooms. Trees, shrubs and flowers were planted by families and volunteers. Aside from the physical development of the structure and grounds, the number of children grew to 50. Hasna and Amir continued to develop a unique Arabic-Hebrew curriculum, and the new pilot class learned two sets of letters (Arabic and Hebrew) as well as enjoying classes in English, Music, Eurythmy and handwork. The older children joined their younger peers in the kindergarten for a special weekly ceremony welcoming Friday (the Muslim day of rest and prayer) and the Jewish Sabbath. All four age groups celebrated two major holidays together - the Muslim Eid El Adha in the Autumn, and the recent Shavuot (Pentecost) holiday.
Not everything is positive, however. The past year has been one of our most challenging, both in terms of finances, and in terms of cooperation with the Ministry of Education regarding the future development of our school. We had an ongoing struggle to receive our budget subsidies from the Ministry of Education, which did not come through on a timely basis, and we had to cut back on many necessities - to the bare minimum. On several occasions staff members continued to work without salary when finances ran low, and on almost a monthly basis we wondered if we would have to close down. Somehow, a miracle happened again and again, and thanks to the support of our donors we managed to pull through. We had an ongoing struggle with the Ministry of Education concerning the continued development for next year, and the establishment of a school for Ein Bustan kindergarten “graduates”. We explored several options throughout the year, to find a home for our school. These were:
To establish a bi lingual class within the framework of a local Arab school in Zubidat
To establish a bi lingual class within the framework of an existing (Jewish) Waldorf school
To establish a bi lingual class within the framework of a local (non-Waldorf) Jewish school in Tivon
In each of these instances, we encountered some positive support - but also many concerns and doubts. Throughout the year, we expended lots of time and effort on correspondence, calls and meetings with the decision makers in each case, creating a roller coaster of hope as each opportunity presented itself - and disappointment when it didn’t work out. Eventually, after much nervous waiting, and despite support for our initiative from mayors, supervisors, lower level education officials, etc. we received a definite negative answer from the Ministry of Education. In a curt and laconic letter, with no added explanation, we were informed that the Ministry rejected our request to establish a bi-lingual class in an existing school, or to establish one of our own. We were instructed to dismantle the present class, segregate the children based on language and religion and inform their parents that they must remove them from Ein Bustan - and register them to separate Arab and Jewish schools. The Ministry warned us that if Ein Bustan held classes despite the Ministry’s objection, we could be persecuted for an illegal act.
Despite the disappointing reaction of the Ministry, the parents and staff of Ein Bustan took a brave stance - they were determined to forge ahead. They said: ”We will not be separated and our children will continue to learn and grow together.” Israeli law allows parents to refrain from sending their children to the regular school system if they are officially “home schooling”. Thus the respective families decided to take advantage of this loophole and register their children to “home school” (with Amir and Hasna’s expert guidance…). Of course this will not be accompanied by any Government subsidy or budget. Happily, we now have 14 families (7 Jewish and 7 Arab) registered for next year’s combined first and second grade class! The families have already begun to meet, and you can read a personal account by Amal, one of the mothers. On a positive note, we are currently in the midst of negotiations to gain use of an existing building for the school, belonging to the local council of Bosmat Tivon, which enthusiastically supports our plans.
The commitment of the parents from both sides reflects the trust and friendship that have evolved between Arab and Jewish families. The feeling that our destinies are tied together is an indication of how much Ein Bustan has become a strong community, overcoming differences in culture, religion and language.
Extra-curricular activities that the Ein Bustan families participate in during after school hours have greatly contributed towards this feeling of community. For example, these included an evening baking cookies for Eid El Adha, an afternoon making wooden toys for the kindergarten, and an evening sewing felt toys. Other significant activities that have drawn us together are Listening Circles and family nature hikes/picnics, and of course ourjoint celebration of festivals.
To our delight, Ein Bustan attracts many diverse supporters and visitors from different religions and countries. Some of the special visitors we had the pleasure of hosting this year included:
Omer Ozkan, a Muslim Waldorf educator from Turkey who volunteered with us for two weeks, and subsequently proceeded to establish a multi-cultural Waldorf kindergarten near Istanbul
Vally Cornelius, our dear friend and supporter from the Netherlands
Manel Vaque, from the French associationLa Nef,which supports anthroposophical projects, along with a team of film makers from Barcelona, who aim to make a documentary film about Ein Bustan
We are grateful to all our donors and supporters, it is through your efforts that we were able to thrive this past year, despite the many difficulties mentioned above. Special mention goes to our supporters in Holland, the IHF and the Helias Foundation, to Shepha Vainstein and the wonderful people from re:Generation in California who raised funding via their inter-faith “Concert for Possibility”, to the Davidov family in New Jersey, to our friends in the UK at the Kings Langely Waldorf school and in the Progressive Community of East Anglia, to our German supporters via the Friends of Rudolf Steiner Education and “Ein Bustan Germany”, and to our friends in France.
In order to physically accommodate the growing number of children, we will need to raise approximately $20,000 in donations to cover the needed renovations this summer. Any help towards this goal would be most appreciated!
Shukran and toda to you all - and to all the individuals too numerous to mention here: thank you for helping us create a new and more peaceful reality.
We send you our blessings and wish you all a wonderful summer!
Maayan Babustan(Ein Bustan) POB 206, Kiryat Tivon 36011
Tel 972-53-4206133 Fax 972-4-9833688 firstname.lastname@example.org