Dear Friends and Supporters,
It has been two months since the school year started in Ein Bustan, and longer since I last wrote you with news. There are those among you that asked about what is happening, and I thank you: each inquiry of yours gave me the strength to continue our work. Thank you also to those that waited patiently - I knew you were there supporting us all the time.
A number of months ago I realized that I must be one of the teachers in Ein Bustan’s first bi-lingual (Arabic-Hebrew) class. I realized that I myself wanted this, and the chance that this would come into being if I did not do it myself - was small. So, despite the fact that I was always claiming that I needed to support the teachers and therefore could not be one myself - I simply assumed the job of class teacher, together with my colleague Hasna. This job added to the other work I do, so of course this was not simple, but I am pleased with my decision. The daily contact with the children fills me with energy and balances the administrative activities and the contact with adults, as the CEO of our association. For those of you who do not know, between 1998-1999 I lived in London and trained as a Waldorf teacher at the London Waldorf Teachers training Seminar, under the direction of the veteran teacher and entrepreneur, Dr. Brian Masters. Since then, I have worked as a music teacher in two Waldorf schools in our area - Harduf, and Shaked, (where my two older children are now studying.)
This past summer, we had many tasks to do in preparation for the coming school year. We rented an additional building, not far from the existing building where our kindergarten started, in Hilf village. The “new” building wasn’t new at all, in fact, it was a building which had been unused and practically abandoned for the past 15 years and which the owner had not intended to rent. We, however, saw that it had good potential, and the owner was finally persuaded and agreed to rent it and allow it to be renovated.
We had a lot of work, since we needed to renovate the building so that it would serve it’s purpose as an educational setting. A fence was erected around the yard, and wooden gates were built and assembled. Trash was removed from the yard, and the entire area underwent changes: unnecessary earth and building debris were collected into a small hill, creating an interesting area for the children to climb and jump on, good earth appropriate for gardening was brought in and dispersed, a cement path was poured, and a watering system was put in place so that we could plant trees, shrubs and flowers. The inner spaces were redesigned and a toilet was put in. A blackboard, a piano, refrigerators and stoves, curtains, dolls and wooden blocks - all these arrived as donations to the class and the kindergartens.
All this was accomplished within a very short period, while the staff was in the process of internal evaluations and pedagogic preparations for the next year’s activities, and while half of the staff was marking the Ramadan period, which involved a daily fast. Many questions remained unanswered, and we knew that we would need to solve them later on, while we worked. We absorbed many new families, as well as new staff people, and many children “graduated” from the previous kindergarten to the new one.
What can I say? When I write all this, looking backward, I don’t understand how it was even possible…but there it is: we commenced a new year, in two separate buildings, and each one of them has two active groups. At this point, I need to emphasize how grateful I am to all of the parents that contributed many weekends and vacations days to work hard on the renovations, and to and the many generous and wonderful donors - that contributed both in-kind and with monetary donations. Thank you all, without you it would have been impossible! It is you that are changing reality and making it better and more beautiful.
As described above, we now have two buildings. The veteran, original kindergarten complex received the name “Dahlia” which means “vine” in Arabic, named for the beautiful grapevine at the entrance of the Bustan. There are two groups in this building, Amna and Gidi’s younger kindergarten (for ages 3-4) and next to it, a nursery group lead by Yoav and Iman. The new building is called “Nisan”(“Spring” in Arabic, and the Hebrew month “Nisan” is one of the spring months) and is home to the older kindergarten (ages 4-5) under the guidance of Ibtisam, Esti and Fatma, as well as our pilot class for the older children , lead by the teacher Hasna and Amir (that’s me). We also have part time professional teachers: Lydia (handcrafts), Yael (English) and Meirav (Eurythmy). In addition, we have local young women who are Bedouin Arabs, who are doing their national service (in lieu of Army service) as volunteer kindergarten assistants.
Besides the teaching staff, our administrative staff includes Rachel (Development and Donor relations), Oren (Financial Director) and Awni (accountant), and recently Ronit Pan has joined us on a volunteer basis as part-time secretary. We should also not forget to mention a number of parents, including Orit, Lee and Orna, who have been volunteering in a variety of capacities ranging from contact with the Ministry of Education to planning the development of the yard. Itamar Feigenbaum and Eli Simon continue to fulfill their duties on our Board. And of course I continue to work as the Executive Director. (May the others I have not mentioned please forgive me - thank God their number is growing!) I am very grateful to and appreciative of all these talented people on our team, who are creating a better reality for us all.
I started my work with Hasna last year, around April. We met as often as we could. We talked and formed a join concept of the challenge before us. We met with parents, who gradually became more and more interested and committed. Each of us observed first grade classes in several different schools. I was able to see wonderful examples of first-class teachers. I spoke with veteran teachers - and from those that teach my own children I received lots of encouragement and also practical information. I took out old materials, books and notebooks and went over the materials, and together we collected stories and ideas, and created lesson plans. In the mornings I made a point of going out into nature to collect impressions, and to look with wonder upon the ever-changing nature of our beautiful world, as I hope my students will do. I tried to spend as much quality time as possible with my own children. As the days went by, I observed with excitement (mixed with a bit of anxiety) - how the beginning of the school year was approaching.
We still had many questions. It was not clear who could support and advise us from a pedagogic standpoint. It was not clear if we would receive the support we needed in order to succeed with this big step forward. It’s true that we formulated ideas over the 6 month period that the kindergartens have been active, but in actuality we were doing something that as far as I know - had never been done before. How would we work in two languages every morning in the main lesson block? How would we sing? How would we do our daily walk? Would the children accept the existence of two languages in one small classroom? Two sets of letters? (see: “The Story of the Letters”)The songs that were not in their mother- tongue? And how would they accept Hasna and myself?
A healing answer to all these difficulties and questions was a deep belief in my heart, which was clear as daylight. Tis belief is still there, and guides me. It is a belief that is strong and beyond words, like a spiritual essence that I receive from above and that permeates my entire being, filling me with light and love. And if this belief could be expressed in words, this is what it would say: these children will receive something immeasurable. Because there is nothing more important in education than loving your fellow human being. In Arabic: Ahbib lahika kamaa tuhib nafsika”: or as in the Jewish saying “love thy neighbor as thyself, this is the great rule of the Torah”. This is what is immediately necessary, and it is an international cause - of all humankind, for there is no way that we can continue to progress and develop without observing this rule. And there is no way to the sublime except through the heart and eyes of one’s fellow human being. Now is the time for a change in humanity’s consciousness.
We who are active in Ein Bustan have been given an immense opportunity, perhaps the biggest of them all. For our children are not our possessions. They are “the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you” to paraphrase Kahlil Gibran. Let us not aim to make them like ourselves, but on the contrary: let us enable them to show us into the holy sanctuaries of the future. Rudolf Steiner said: “All education is self education”, and we are doing our best, relentlessly and with courage, to educate ourselves.
The weather on our part of the world has grown colder these past few days, and we are enjoying a beautiful Autumn. The Muslims among us recently celebrated the Eid El Adha holiday. Kul Am waintu bahir! And the Jews among us celebrated the holidays of Tishrei: the jewish New Year. A beautiful Sukka stood in the yard during Sukkot, and reminded me, among other things, of the importance of hospitality. Hospitality of neighbors, those who live close by and those further away, and the importance of accepting people as they are - similar and /or different than I am. This letter will reach those speaking foreign languages within the next month, and among them are many Christians. Christmas is near, and close after it - the new year of 2012. Happy New Year!
I know many of you personally, while there are others I would be happy to meet, but have not done so yet, and I wait for an opportunity. We have many tasks still before us, and our feet are not yet steadily on the ground. Therefore, we need your generous support, whether it is encouragement or financial support. In order to sustain our current kindergartens and class, and in order to establish new groups of children we need many resources, both of staff and equipment.
I would like to bless each and every one of you. I wish you happiness and plenty, and hope you will see the fruit of your work and enjoy your dear ones. May we all know how to share all of the good that has been given to us in this beautiful world. I hope that in the coming year the ties between us will grow stronger, and more and more people will realize that we are all one family, and that the solidarity between us is a necessary condition for our continued mutual development. As the Director of Ein Bustan I am committed to doing all that I can to fulfill this goal, and to expand and deepen our work as much as we can.