Dear Friends, Partners and Supporters of Ein Bustan,
We are now at the beginning of July, and the third year of activity in the “Ein in Bustan kindergarten has drawn to a close. This is seemingly a long period of time - three years - however, my feeling is that our initiative is still in its beginning. Let us not forget for a minute what an enormous challenge we have taken upon ourselves: to operate an educational institution of first class quality, based on the Waldorf educational method, in two languages, while paying close attention to the two cultures that live in our area: the Arabic speaking culture and the Hebrew speaking one. Moreover, looking into the future, our intentions are to increase our activities and to establish additional kindergartens, to establish a school, and to influence our entire area to the extent of our ability.
Our values are those of brotherhood, acceptance and attentiveness. We are working toward change, and the development of human consciousness in our area; we refuse to comply with the accepted perception that the two neighboring peoples that live in this land are enemies and are unable to dwell together. We see the Waldorf method as a curative force for this tragic situation, in which children of one people are unable to grow up with children of the other people, and those in each culture do not have the opportunity to get to know or to appreciate at depth, the culture of the other. Estrangement and alienation have created a situation whereby each people is unable to empathize with the human qualities of the other, and therefore they tend to be suspicious, fearful, and aggressive towards each other, and oftentimes this may escalate to extreme violence.
Here then, within this cruel and difficult context, we have planted a unique and special seed, that brings with it hopes for calm, for brotherhood, for serenity and peace: we established a non-profit organization, we corresponded endlessly with government offices, we looked for a structure, went from one office to the next, met with parents and children, wrote and translated stories and songs, received a license from the Ministry of Education, celebrated the holidays of both peoples, told stories in two languages, tried out different pedagogical models, and held endless meetings - continuing all the while to believe in our vision.
And so, here it is in reality: a multicultural and bilingual(Arabic and Hebrew Waldorf kindergarten.
As we now evaluate our activities, for ourselves and for our supporters, we cannot forget how in our first year, like a new born child, we knew little about the path that we were about to tread, nor the courage that we would require.
During the second year, we reaped the rewards of the intentions and efforts, but also the unripe fruit of inexperience, lack of resources, and lack of support from the establishment.
Now that we are in our third year, we have learned from our experiences, and try not to repeat our mistakes. We have experienced spirit-exalting highs, but also moments of bitter sadness. We are starting to understand the extent of the work before us, which confronts us at times with despair and accumulated fatigue that endanger the existence of the project. However, contrary to all these we are also well acquainted with the huge satisfaction that accompanies this initiative, and thank our destinies for the great privilege to be part of this wonderful project. Although at present only little is revealed to the eye of the beholder, those with attentive hearts have no doubts as to the importance of this initiative in our area, and accordingly, to all humanity.
When a child turns three years old, he refers to himself as “I” for the first time. For the first time he is conscious of himself as separate from the world. It is perhaps the appropriate time for self- examination. We can imagine ourselves as a young child, pointing at himself and saying: I, and gathering courage, we will present our loved ones and ourselves an ad hoc report.
We very much wanted (and still want) to invest our complete energy to the new pedagogy and to the professional questions that arise, however reality has dictated to us a different rhythm, and we lovingly accept this lesson: it is impossible to make a step in the world of the spirit/humanities without taking at least three steps in the material world. Thus it happened that our utmost energies this year, as well, were devoted to the relationship with official factors, so that we might attain the much hoped-for status and receive those budgets that we are lawfully entitled to. I am hopeful that we are nearing the end of this exhausting period, and that a regular budget from the Israel Ministry of Education will arrive on a monthly basis during the coming school year. The ongoing negotiation with the Ministry occasionally created embarrassing situations in which instead of devoting my full attention to our kind and generous friends from around the world that support us and are interested in staying in touch and concerned for our welfare, I found myself exhausted, without a moment’s leisure to breath, and obligated to provide more and more documents to the Ministry, spending hours each day on the telephone - and our efforts have not achieved results even yet! I wish to use this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all our supporters, who are our real partners in this journey, and to deeply apologize for thank-yous that arrived late. A thousand thank yous to you for your patience and understanding. I believe that in the not-too-distant future we will finally be able to use your generous donations for matters of staff training and enrichment for the children, and create a system curriculum that is so enchanting that more and more families will be attracted to join, and will even attract the attention of the media.
Despite all the difficulties, we decided to stop at the end of this third year, and to observe what has taken place, before we begin the fourth year. Our attempts at evaluation at the end of the second year were disrupted due to the war that erupted in our area; apparently it was not the right time.
In order to do this, we are preparing an assessment and evaluation seminar this coming July, with the participation of all of the teachers that have worked in the kindergarten up until now, and with all of the support staff. The basic question that will guide us is: what is the contribution of Waldorf Education towards creating a bridge between cultures? During the course of seven 4-hour meetings we will deepen our observation of what we have created thus far:
1. What is the nature of inter-cultural relationships in the kindergarten? (Between the children of different cultures, between the kindergarten teachers of different cultures, between the parents, between the teacher of one culture and the child of a different culture, etc.)
2. What is the nature of the pedagogy that we have chosen - did we encourage learning the second language? How? Did it serve our goals appropriately? How did we tell stories? In what languages did we sing, bless, and converse?
3. What is the role of Puppet Theater in our bi-lingual kindergarten? What additional means can we use to overcome linguistic difficulties?
4.Which holidays did we celebrate and in what manner? What message did we thus convey to the children?
5. How shall we decide what language is used in each situation in the kindergarten?
Due to the extent of the subject, we have chosen to concentrate in this seminar only on pedagogical questions. The technical questions will be discussed with the executive board and supporting staff from the NGO.
My plan, then, is that I will write you next before we commence the fourth school year in our kindergarten, and at that time I will update you about our evaluations and our conclusions that will guide our actions in the future.
I will part now with warm greetings as we approach the summer season, and I hope to see you one of these days as our honored guests in the kindergarten.
Ein Bustan teachers Gidi and Amna put on a puppet show for the children