The Primary School students organized a peaceful protest and demonstration, asking for new computers in the library to replace the old ones that are too slow.
Inspired by his 4th graders, who were studying democracy, teacher Rani decided to create and experience for them to understand how to work for change in society.
By playing a football game in which he had divided the pupils into two uneven teams, one stronger and one weaker, the pupils became engaged in a vigorous discussion on how we act when we win or lose and what we can do when we think something is wrong, such as an imbalance of power.
The process was very serious. Should they write a letter to the principal or should they demonstrate?
They requested a permit from the principal and began to organize, talking with the other classes, drawing up a petition and making signs, slogans and songs, with everything--discussions, signs, songs--in both Hebrew and Arabic! Marching to the teachers’ room, they began their protest with speeches and slogans.
There was also a small group of “counter protesters.” The principal addressed the group, promising to provide the computers by the beginning of the next school year.
"Somehow- despite the dismal state of what people call ’the political situation’-the Primary School at Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom remains an oasis of honest and caring encounter, exciting learning, and all-round joy for our students, staff, parent, and friends. Everyone involved contributes to this miracle with a shared outlook and hope for the future."
At the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Primary School, there is something that happens that is unique in Israel. Look at the recent three months - home to the holidays (and holydays) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What abundance these children have to share!
Can you imagine the learning that comes out of weeks of preparations for three such holidays? Children write their updated versions of the stories or they recreate the historic narrative. They write, they perform, they prepare foods and works of art and they share it all with the whole school, families and friends.
Beginning at the end of December with Milad a-Nabi, Hannukah and Christmas, the school’s traditions continue through Purim, Easter and Passover. Isra’ and Miraj will have their turn in May. When the students create a modern interpretation of a traditional story, research and explanation are part of the shared process. In the Purim recreation, Facebook and Twitter were used for some sections. For all holidays there is music, art, story and food with all children are engaged in each part whether preparing a modest meal for Passover, involving grilling potatoes on a fire and baking matzot on a griddle or putting on a red hat and beard and carrying a sack of handmade gifts for sharing. Always, for every holiday, there is the singing of traditional music.
What is so great about students celebrating holidays together? How about having everything in both languages, flowing easily, by all the children and the teachers?
How about having all of the children learning about each other’s traditions with depth and empathy, sharing their own family traditions and narratives, and coming to understand very different ones?
How about finding the values and themes that are common among these traditions and finding those universal values where we all can join in?
…and finally, how about strengthening the children’s individual identities while strengthening their shared identity for their shared future? That’s a pretty terrific outcome for just celebrating holidays together.
Not just slogans!
Equality, respect and acceptance of the ‘other’ are guiding principles for the first binational, bilingual and multi-cultural school in Israel, run jointly and equally by Jews and Arabs.
In a region where everything, even the olive harvest, is politicized, Palestinian and Jewish Primary School classmates picked olives together, surrounded by teachers, parents and community members. These students worked together to harvest the fruits of the dozens of olive trees planted 40 years ago and more on their school land. Hebrew and Arabic songs and conversations floated across the warm air, everyone’s olives were mixed together for the pressing. At a time when hearing others speaking Hebrew or Arabic can foster a sense of fear or of belonging, connections across language, village and history were made by these children’s parents.
The children will lead: The 6th grade class has a dream for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, so they prepared a program for parents, students and friends, held in the Eisenberg Auditorium, where they spoke about the meaning of democracy and narrated key events of Yitzak Rabin’s life and tragic death. Students took turns, in Hebrew and Arabic, to voice messages of hope and peace.
We the students of Wahat al- Salam-Neve Shalom School call on everyone to strive for human unity, advance tolerance and understanding, and put an end to wars and violence.”
“Now is the time to strengthen our determination and remind the world that a different way, based on equal coexistence, mutual respect and sharing of responsibility is possible.”
Courage can be contagious
Instead of being dismayed by Israeli-Arab conflict outside the village, the Primary School decided to grow by 12% this fall as it welcomed a second first-grade class, with equal numbers of Israeli Palestinian and Jewish children. Plans are now in place to admit two first-grade classes each year for the next five years, effectively doubling the student body. The place where today 200 Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children live, learn and play together in Arabic and Hebrew, will grow into a community of 400 children
Hope increases in hard times:
Amid the increased levels of mistrust and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam’s Bilingual/Binational Primary School saw an increase in applications! An additional class of first-graders was welcomed for the opening of the 2015-2016 school year. They were greeted by the 6th graders in what has become a tradition at the Primary School.
Principal Carmella Ferber knows the power of music as a tool for peaceful dialogue, opening new pathways to learning as well as opening hearts. The opening of the school year was led by the new music teacher.
Playing the oud, he had the children singing in Hebrew and Arabic. A few weeks later, two internationally known musicians- Israeli Udi-Bar David playing cello and Palestinian Hanna Khoury, playing violin – both now living in Philadelphia, performed for the children, and then offered the children an opportunity to sing some well-known folksongs while being accompanied by world-class musicians!
Coming from a dozen towns and villages within a twenty-mile radius, every day the children return to their communities and families with the evidence that learning and living together is not only possible, it is enriching. Families begin to see their world a bit differently every day, and step by step- following the lead of their children- families, neighbors and then communities come to see the power of mutual respect and a shared future.
As a parents committee representative said on opening day,"Our school is a growing garden and you are its flowers,"
Every year, Primary School participates in Good Deeds Day, where students and teachers focus on helping and improving the lives of others. This year, the 5th grade students, along with the help of their teachers, the Village biologist and gardener, representatives of the student environmental committee, and the NADI Director, carried out a project over the two weeks leading up to Good Deeds Day. The project set out to help the Bustan Snobar (Pine Tree) Kindergarten, an Arab kindergarten that takes care of 8 autistic children. On Good Deeds Day, everyone came together to clean up the school, paint the outer wall, place birdhouses created by PS students from recycled materials, install beautiful mosaics and wind chimes, plant flowers and other plants the 5th graders selected from the PS Greenhouse, and set up an irrigation system.
To honor the memory of both nationalities, the teachers of our Primary School conducted programs for both the Palestinian and Jewish children. Listening to each other’s stories of what it means to live together in coexistence and peace, respecting each other’s narratives, helped everyone understand the impact of the conflict. The children came together to draw pictures symbolizing what living together in peace meant to them.
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