Meet Lana Nasrallah

Meet Lana Nasrallah: Tamrat El Zeitoun’s First Waldorf Class Teacher

Lana NasrallahI am a Christian Arab woman, born in Israel in the city of Shefar’am, a town of 30,000, located between Haifa and Nazareth. My father, Edward was a successful carpenter with a very artistic nature. My mother, So’ad, always dreamed of becoming a doctor and was accepted to the University of Jerusalem. Although she never fulfilled that dream, she loved learning and instilled the importance of education on myself and my brothers and sister. We all went on to receive a higher education and each of us, in our own way, has an artistic nature and an appreciation of aesthetics.

Our house was always open to people of other cultures and religions although this was not necessarily the norm. In the city of Shraram there is a mixture of Christians, Muslims and Druze and in our house, all of them were welcome and represented. There were also Jewish families that were good friends of ours and associated with my father’s business. I studied sociology and education at the university and then worked as a school counselor for 4 years. After studying the arts, I returned to Shfaram where I became an art teacher for 10 years at a Junior High School. In these years, I encountered many different kinds of children that didn’t quite fit in to the normal requirements of the school program. Some had learning difficulties; some had big problems at home. Whenever possible, I took them into my classes and made the art room a warm loving, accepting place for everyone. I had no idea I was going to be integrating a whole new approach to education for the Arab community in my city.

Pioneering Waldorf Education for the Arab Community in Israel

The Muslim principle of our Junior High School, Mazan Ayub, had been connected for years with the well-established Waldorf School next to the Jewish kibbutz of Harduf, located quite close to Shfaram.  Mazan began to speak to me about a “different kind” of education that may be possible for the Arab community in Shfaram. At about this time, Mazan, together with faculty from Harduf, started a Waldorf Education Teacher Training for the Arab Sector in Israel. Mazan, began to speak to me about a “different kind” of education that may be possible for the Arab community in Shfaram. At about this time, Mazan, together with faculty from Harduf, started a Waldorf Education  Teacher Training for the Arab Sector in Israel. Mazan, sensed in me this striving for a more holistic approach to education; I joined this new training.  Along with the new teacher training came the first Arab Waldorf preschool and kindergarten in Shfar’am which was very successful. My third daughter was one of the first children to participate in this new adventure. Through the years a feeling of community developed among the parents of these children. Finally it was time to start a Waldorf Elementary School in the Arab sector of Israel. A Waldorf School based on the beauty of the Arab culture and language which teaches Hebrew and English, where all the different religions and sects of Arab people are represented and work together: Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins. The idea of bringing all these children together in one school is not the norm and today not only is El Zeitoun the only school in Shfar’am that brings all of the Arab religious communities together, but it is also a model for how to integrate Waldorf education into the Arab culture.

Building the Friendship Bridge while Expanding Women’s Roles

Mothers Started Our School: By Lana Nasrallah

 There is a poem in Arabic that can be translated:

“Mother is school and if it’s good, you will have a free people.”

My interpretation is:

“‘Mother’ is a woman. First she must be free so she can help her children to be free.”

Mothers started our school. A group of us gathered together looking for alternative education for our children.  In almost every case, it was the mother who chose to put her child into El Zeitoun.

It began with me, a teacher with ten years in the classroom. I am a mother who chose to begin this new school. At first, my husband didn’t agree, but I didn’t give up. Other women, mostly teachers, understood my ideas and joined me. Step by step we started this school. Unfortunately, there are mothers who had to leave the school because their husbands didn’t back them. These women support our work even though they are unable to participate.  Many of the mothers took classes through the Harduf Arab Waldorf Teacher Training so they could have a better understanding of how we teach.  There is a group that administers our school. It is composed of men and women.  Today our school initiative is composed of Muslim, Druze and Christian families all working together.