Life Begins Now: The Ein Bustan Project renews it’s energies
Noam Sharon is the editor of “Adam Olam” which is the National magazine for Anthroposophy and Waldorf Initiatives in Israel
The Ein Bustan initiative, which promotes Hebrew-Arabic Waldorf Education, has undergone a year full of hardships, but has come out stronger.
A year ago we reported that parents from the Ein Bustan initiative for bi-lingual Waldorf education were summoned to court because they had “not fulfilled their parental obligations” because they had sent their children to a joing Arab Jewish school which was not yet officially recognized by the Ministry of Education. I recently received an email from Amir Shlomian, and I called him and asked how things are going.
“Many people have been asking me lately how things are going. There are those that are aware that we contended with many difficulties, and those that are afraid that we won’t have the strength to continue. But I am happy to report that we are alive and kicking.”
The Ein Bustan project commenced in 2005, with the purpose of enabling Arabic speakers and Hebrew speakers to send their children to joint Waldorf educational frameworks and study together. Ein Bustan started with a kindergarten, and currently operates two kindergartens and a multi-age classroom for ages 7-10. Near the kindergarten, a nursery group is also active, so that in essence, Ein Bustan provides an educational alternative for ages 1 to 10. The initiative is situated in Bosmat Tab’un, right next to Kiryat Tivon, and in each class there are educators that teach in two languages, Arabic and Hebrew. “As time goes by, I realize more and more that the multi-cultural nature of our initiative is not a problems that needs to be solved, but rather an enormous privilege, especially if we want to educate our children to love the Other. The multi-age classroom also presents many challenges to us. This year we have classes 1-3, and next year I foresee two classes: Class 1+ 2 and Class 3+ 4. We have found that in certain areas such as music and mathematics there is not a bog gap between the abilities of each age group. The differences are mainly in the realm of emotional development, for example, in the type of stories we tell them. And for that purpose, we divide them into smaller, age appropriate groups.”
Is the subject of the legal battles against the parents already behind you?
“Yes, it’s behind us. What happened is that in January 2012 we received a promise from the Regional Director of the North from the Ministry of Education, that if we can show sufficient demand of parents to open a bi-lingual class, she would start the process with us. However, instead she gave a very late negative answer, which did not enable us to submit the appropriate documents needed for recognition to the Ministry of Education in time. In protest, in September 2012 17 of the Ein Bustan families submitted requests for Homeschooling. The education officers were enchanted by what they observed, but informed the families that they could not consider them homeschoolers, and that they were not interested in dealing with us. From there on the familes were considered to be “not fulfilling their parental duties” since they were not sending their children to an existing recognized school, and in two regions, with Tivon being one of them, legal suites were brought against the parents. The head of the Tivon Education Department was responsible for doing this, in the name of the Local Council, but without the knowledge of the Mayor, Mr. David Ariely. This angered the Mayor, and he postponed the court orders to the extent that he could. Concurrently, we started a serious campaign which gathered a lot of support, through facebook, emails and letters from 9 different countries, and several major news stories in the Haaretz newspaper.
Finally, in June 2013, we had a meeting with the advisor to the Minister of Education (who has since been replaced) and afterwards the court case was shut. So the legal action was cancelled, however we still do not have formal recognition from the Ministry of Education. This, we remained strong and determined in spirit, but weak in a material sense.”
Amir himself felt this sense of fatigue on a personal level, and he says that in the past few months he has taken a step back from the project, in order to enable new and fresh forces the space they need to express themselves. “Currently in Tivon there are attempts to establish a new Waldorf school, in addition to the existing Shaked school. I started to hear people say that Ein Bustan is my own private whim, and only of interest to me, and if I leave, the initiative will not continue. I hoped this was not indeed the situation, and at a certain point decided to check if this was true, and I announced that I am taking a step backward. “ (Amir was previously both the Director, and teacher of the first class).”Today I am no longer the Lead Teacher, but I still teach the students music and occasionally tell them a story, accompany them in acrobalance class, walks, and holidays…at the same time, a new Director, Itaf Awad, joined the organization” In reaction to Amir’s action, the parents established a steering group called “Dairat El N’shat” - “Circle of Action”, and they are currently working towards the establishment of an additional new class.
The breathing space that Amir took for himself enabled him to return to his first love - music. “This past Sukkot, I took one of my songs, not a new one but one which needed some refreshing, and I recorded it in a recording studio. I decided to donate the song to Ein Bustan, and we started a campaign to raise money by selling the song to those that wish to download it, starting from a minimum sum of 10 sheqels (€ 2) You can hear parts of this lovely song, called “Life Begins Now” - by clicking the following link: http://dontleaveuskids.com/life-begins-now-english/
“The song campaign brings together two of my worlds - Music and Ein Bustan, which is like a fourth child for me. Thanks to this gift that I am giving to the organization, I can breath a bit, and eventually return to it with renewed energies. Lately I have been receiving lots of positive feedback from Waldorf Education colleagues. People come up to me and say: “One day we will act as you do”. And this support and recognition is wonderful in itself, since at the beginning of our journey I heard lots of criticism from Waldorf educators. But we don’t have to wait until “One Day”. I invite Waldorf educators to think about social justice between Hebrew and Arabic speakers. I have no doubt that this is one of the roles that Waldorf Education should play in Israel.”
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Maayan Babustan(Ein Bustan) POB 206, Kiryat Tivon 36011
Tel 972-53-3657027 (Adi) Fax 972-4-9833688 firstname.lastname@example.org