First day of school!

Here we are: a new school year has begun for our now second graders! Ira and Yasmin have followed them and will be teaching this year too.

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Summer camp for Palestinian children in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

The first graders – soon second graders! – are away on vacation right now, but we thought you’d be interested to know that the Primary School still welcomes children during the summer.

Every year, the Primary School of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam organizes summer camps for Palestinian children. Some 45 children between the age of 9 and 13 took part. All the children came from the area of Hebron and were accompanied by four Palestinian guides. From WAS-NS, the Camp was coordinated by WAS-NS member and school teacher Ms. Reem Nashef. She worked with three Arab youth leaders from WAS-NS, four other young helpers, and a number of volunteers. Continue reading

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The faces of the first grade

The children created t-shirts for their class with their faces at the end of the school year. Here is what they look like!

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Peace Brushes

On June 7, in an apparent protest against the decision to evacuate an Israeli “outpost” settlement, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam was attacked by thugs who crept into the village, slashed tires of many cars and spray-painted right-wing and anti-Arab slogans on cars and buildings, including the Primary School.

Graffitis read “Death to Arabs” or “Revenge;” a message on one of the 14 damaged cars said “Hi from Ulpana” (the outpost settlement that the government decided to evacuate).

Right after the attack happened, the community, along with parents of the school, organized the cleanup of the school building – so that the hateful graffitis would be erased before the children came back to school.

Continue reading

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I like chocolate

Singer David Broza, who has a family connection with our village through one of our earliest members, his grandfather Wellesley Aron, hangs out with some of the school kids earlier this week. He is singing the song “I like Chocolate”, words by Jonathan Geffen. Lyrics and translation can be found at:

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Adjusting to the bilingual framework of the school

One year of kindergarten is compulsory in Israel, but most attend pre-school much earlier. Yet for most of the children (all except 8 this year) it is their first year in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and therefore their first experience of a bilingual classroom. Some children manage quite well and quickly make friends. For others it is harder.

Shams, an Arab girl from Lod, found it harder than most at the beginning. In her kindergarten she was known to be a very talented and outgoing child. She loves to sing and dance. But she definitely found it disconcerting to be in a situation where she could not communicate with half of the children and where some of the teachers spoke to her in Hebrew. She felt disadvantaged because Yaara and Bushra (two Arab girls from the village who had already been to kindergarten here), spoke Hebrew very well. So in the early days of the school she clung a lot to the Arab teachers, especially her homeroom teacher Yasmin. She would even stay with Yasmin and follow her around even during the school breaks.

Now Shams feels at home in the school. She can read, write and understand some Hebrew – still not perfectly, but she is learning to adjust – just like the other children. During the school breaks she plays with Jewish children, and has started to visit them after school.

Orel is a Jewish child from Messilat Tsiyon, a nearby Jewish moshav. Most of the residents in Messilat Tsiyon are Cochini Jews from South India, though Orel has an Indian-origin mother and a Yemenite-origin father. For the first half of the school year he attended a different school. However, he was unhappy there, and in parallel he started to hear from some of his friends in Messilat Tsiyon about the Oasis of Peace school and it sounded like much more fun. For example, they told him how they had celebrated Christmas and other holidays that he had never heard of. So he joined our school rather late – only after the winter break. It was not an easy step. By that time, the other children had already learned both the Hebrew and the Arabic alphabets and were making progress in understanding the other language. In short, he had a lot of catching up to do. Now he’s doing better, especially because he made a friend: Fariel, the Arab girl who sits next to him in the class. Now they are inseparable. Orel speaks to her in Hebrew; Fariel answers in Arabic, and it isn’t clear how much they understand one-another, but somehow it works, and Orel is beginning to feel at home at the school.

Asked how the first grade children are doing in general, Yasmin says they are all making steady progress. They understand the second language well at a passive level already, i.e. they understand most of what the teachers and the other children are saying. Working bilingually with the children requires a lot of effort on behalf of the teachers, and perhaps more so on behalf of the Arab teachers. For example, the school just celebrated Purim, a Jewish holiday. The Arab children take part too, but the Jewish teacher cannot, by herself, work with the Arab children due to language limitations. So even though this is a Jewish holiday, the Arab teacher must be equally involved in the preparations. In the first grade there is the additional difficulty that the Jewish teacher, Ira, is now in advanced pregnancy and now may have to remain at home.

Integration between the children is very good and they play together without distinction. As mentioned, they have also begun to visit one-another at home.

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Star of the week

After the extremely successful holiday celebration party and the much needed vacation, the first grade is back. One of the things that the teachers in first grade do is have star week. You may ask: how does this work?

The idea is to draw two students’ names from a hat, and have each student whose name got drawn be the star for the week. The star of the week gets to show picture of herself and her family, talk about her favorite animal among other things. This week two children were. One’s favorite animal was the rabbit, while the other the dog. Also one of the students brought his favorite board game, and this week he will be able to play it with his classmates. This rather innocent activity allows pupils to celebrate each other in their cultural and individual differences. It allows keeping learning fresh and interesting for the pupils, while learning names of new animals, or activities, they can associate it with a friend in their class as opposed to have it be abstract. Activities like this allow students to connect with each other on a deep level, while reminding them that everybody is unique in their own way.

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End of year celebration

On December 20th, in the Morning, in front of the whole school, the 1st grade performed for the whole primary school; teachers and students alike. People were so impressed that they asked the 1st graders to redo one of the dances which was particularly creative.

In the evening, the show was performed this time for the parents. The show consisted of a mixture of performances in honor of three holidays, one Islamic, one Jewish and one Christian: in this case the holidays were Hijra, Chanukah and Christmas.

At first they engaged in a show on Hijra, they sang Tala’a al-Badru ‘Alayna (The Moon has come to visit). They then turned around a pylon representing the turning around Mecca; the Muslim call to prayer could be heard at this time as all the children danced around the pylon.

After this the children did a presentation on the significance of Hanukah. Why do Jews light candles? Why 8 days? What do they represent? These questions were all answered; students came up to the microphone usually in groups of two and explained all this to their parents in the audience in Arabic and Hebrew. They also did their aforementioned creative dance, spinning like dreidels, and looking at sufganiyah (sweet fried donut).

After this the focus was shifted to Christmas, and an actual play was performed! It was quite impressive to see the text that the children had learned by heart which was a difficult text in Arabic and Hebrew. Occasionally, Yasmin and Yaël (the 1st grade teachers) whispered the text if children had forgotten their parts. The story of how three kings came to Bethlehem, how they had brought presents, and more was shown in theater form. The barn used in the play had actually been decorated the night before by the 2nd graders and their parents.

After the play, a giant dreidel and a giant menorah were brought to the front, as the song “Maoz Tzur” was played in the background (rock of angels). The kids ran around in circles of the dreidel with the music of “Sevivon, Sov, sov, sov” (dreidel, spin spin spin). After this, they danced around the menorah, and they were ready for the grand finally: a 4th grader dressed as Santa Clause came and gave each of the 1st graders a present which consisted of a stocking filled with something special. The beauty of celebrating holidays together can be summarized by a little Palestinian Muslim girl who excitedly opens the presents she received from Santa clause: with a huge smile, she shows a musical dreidel to her mom. Her mom smiles back.

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Where we’re coming from

During a class activity, the children were invited to look at how similar they are to each other, physically. They could realize that they are all equal humans but also each being their own selves, with different tastes, personalities or geographic location. Where they all meet is in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam when coming to school every morning. Here everyone is respected for who they are.

As an illustration of this, the children have created a board showing their different villages, with Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam as the meeting point in the center, a symbol of Jews and Palestinians being together as equals:

The board is now at the entrance of the classroom, for everyone to see.

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Winter Day at the School

While the Muslims are on vacation as it is the season of Eid al-Adha, it is a tradition of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam’s elementary school that its pupils have a day consecrated to celebrating Winter. On this occasion the whole school gathered yesterday at 12pm and ate some soup. There were a few batches of lentil soup and a few batches of vegetable soup. The 6th graders were responsible for making the delicious soups, and all grades and teachers took full advantage of it.

Ira, 1st grade teacher, accompanied by Guy, Drama teacher, during the last hour read to the 1st graders. They read the famous Israeli ancient story of “Honi Ha-Meagel” about the one year long lack of rain and a man who walked in a circle in order for it to rain.

The 1st graders drew some clouds in celebration of Winter Day.

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