“There is no path to peace, peace is the path.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
The Orchard of Abraham’s Children was born of an exceptional love story between a Muslim man and a Jewish woman. Ihab, a Palestinian Arab Muslim man from Jaffa, and Ora, a Jewish woman from the Galilee, fell in love, and despite the gaps and tension between the two nations, the couple took a leap of faith and tied the knot.
In 2008, the couple welcomed Nur, their first child, and soon faced a profound dilemma- where would they send him to kindergarten? Would they send their Palestinian and Jewish son to a Jewish kindergarten? An Arab kindergarten? Ultimately they found no suitable option that truly reflected their bilingual, multicultural home, so they decided to open their own. In 2010, Ora and Ihab opened the Orchard of Abraham’s Children for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children in Jaffa, a city near Tel Aviv with sizable populations of Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Orchard reflects Ihab and Ora’s interfaith way of living and belief in the power of love. Its bicultural and bilingual trauma-informed Waldorf classrooms are trauma-informed and Waldorf. They also proudly incorporate both Jewish and Palestinian Arab traditions and culture, and there is a long waiting list of parents hoping to enroll their children.
Building bridges between Jewish and Palestinians in Jaffa is a key component of the Orchard’s success. While Jaffa is a mixed city, Jewish and Arab residents remain largely separate due to language barriers and different educational systems, even though they often live next door to each other.
“We encourage our students to teach each other their languages and cultures, and this allows them to look into the eyes of the monster of conflict and see it for what it really is. You don’t need to change anything about yourself, but you have to get to know the other and accept them. And it helps dissolve the fear ingrained in the culture.”
– Ora Balha
Hundreds of Jewish and Palestinian families participate in events outside of the preschool and nursery, making it a landmark community peace center. The Orchard’s community center helps residents deepen bonds of shared humanity through workshops, lectures, art courses, and spiritual seminars. Over time, the Orchard has become a role model, inspiring many organizations, institutions, and individuals to transcend the barriers of fear and ignorance and cultivating a culture of respect in the Holy Land and worldwide.
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