A Spiritual Journey to Ein Bustan
About the choice to live in harmony with everything that surrounds us
My name is Smadar, and I live in Kiryat Tivon, with my husband Yotam and our children Shlomo (age 6) and Ayelet (age 4). Both of us were born and grew up in Tivon. Yotam is a guitar teacher and a musician, and I am a teacher of yoga and circus arts.
We both were raised in secular [Jewish] families, without any sort of connection to religion. When we were adolescents we both became interested in Judaism, and were drawn to religious faith and the observance of Mitsvot [Jewish religious commandments], and this in turn lead us to become observant Jews. We chose to belong to a stream of Orthodox Judaism known as the Breslev Hasidism, and after we married we moved to the city of Tsfat [known for it’s religious Jewish community], where our two children were born. After six years of leading a strictly observant Jewish lifestyle, we started to reevaluate, and we both reached the conclusion that we hadn’t found the spiritual and psychological satisfaction that we had been looking for. We decided to abandon our religious lifestyle and leave Tsfat, and to return to Tivon in order to start afresh in the place that was most natural for us - where we grew up.
From the age of 1 ½, our son Shlomo attended a day care center belonging to the Habad Hasidim, where he learned all of the religious customs. When we gave him his first haircut, at the age of 3, we left the side curls uncut [“peyot”] as is customary for religiously observant Jews. When we arrived in Tivon, Shlomo was three and a half, and we decided to send him to a Habad kindergarten in order to “soften” the impact of the move, so he could attend a framework which was familiar to him. For two years, Shlomo was in this religious kindergarten, while at the same time, our younger daughter Ayelet was in a secular home-child care setting. At this stage we cut off Shlomo’s “peyot” and we started to live a completely secular lifestyle at home. Therefore, we decided it was time to look for an educational framework that would suit our beliefs. We were familiar with Waldorf education and like it, so we looked for a Waldorf kindergarten.
I met Amir Shlomian in Tivon, almost by chance, and he told me about Ein Bustan. I had never heard of the kindergarten before, and I was very curious about it. I came to visit a couple of times, and I was very impressed by the warm, pleasant atmosphere and the dedication of the staff toward the children. In addition, we were attracted by the ideology: we hoped that the integration with Arabic speakers would enable us as a family to get to know our neighbors better, dissolving the existing barriers between the two peoples. In relation to the religious process we had undergone, the [Ein Bustan] kindergarten symbolized for us the choice to live in harmony with everything that surrounds us, as opposed to living within closed barriers that create a distance and separation. We chose the kindergarten because we believe that it is a wonderful educational framework for Shlomo in every aspect, as well as a wonderful community for our entire family.
Shlomo’s move from the Habad kindergarten to the bi-lingual kindergarten went smoothly, and didn’t bring up any questions about differences between Arabs and Jews. He accepted the new reality with curiosity and joy. At home he commented that the new kindergarten is more fun than the previous one: in the old kindergarten he had to pray a lot, and now, he has to sing a lot!
After the commencement of the school year, we decided to also register our younger daughter, Ayala, to the kindergarten. She adapted quickly and happily and loves the kindergarten very much. At home, when Ayala plays with her dolls, she often talks to them in gibberish, and says that she is speaking to them “in Arabic”, and it’s obvious that the Arabic language is slowly seeping into her consciousness.
During the course of the year there are many events that enable us to become familiar with a different culture - through customs, songs, and food, and thus all of us (parents, too) enjoy the best of both worlds. Now we feel that we are part of the Ein Bustan community, a community of wonderful people, that we would not have met if we hadn’t sent our children to this kindergarten.
Translated from the Hebrew and photos: Rachel Gottlieb