We are Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel whose children learn together in a bilingual kindergarten in Israel.
For over a year, we have been working hard to establish a warm and cohesive environment for young parents that seek to give their children an alternative and multicultural education. Where we live in Israel, this shared society undertaking is rare- and very challenging.
Ramleh and Lod are mixed cities, meaning that Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel live together. 70% of its population is Jewish, and 30% are Arab (both Muslims and Christians). The residents of Ramleh and Lod have suffered for many years from heartbreaking violence, most of which is directed at the Arab community.
Parents of Snobar kindergartners in Ramleh/ Lod, Israel
Classrooms That Build Bridges
In Ramleh and Lod, there are few places for Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel to interact and get to know each other. People from different backgrounds typically meet at their children’s schools in other countries. But in Israel, the education system is segregated based on religion and language. For example, kindergartens in Ramleh and Lod are either Hebrew-speaking or Arabic-speaking, and it is impossible to find a bilingual kindergarten. This sets people apart from each other, calcifying misunderstanding, hatred, and fear.
This segregation in the Israeli education system has prompted community members to launch programs designed to reduce racism, prejudice, and alienation between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel and to strengthen the values of democracy and pluralism. However, these endeavors have yet to produce widespread, systematic changes.
A Snobar teacher and kindergartner bake cookies.
There is a need for a systemic solution, and it can be best delivered in our school system. Education must prioritize inclusiveness and human values and promote diversity as having the potential to enrich communal wholeness.
Peace is a daily process. Education should be an example, allowing children of different religions and backgrounds to be together as equals, respected for who they are, and respecting all others.
We decided to establish a multicultural and human-to-human school based on Waldorf education to help us coexist in diverse cities. A kindergarten in the spirit of Waldorf’s education will provide our children with an atmosphere of acceptance, warmth, and guidance that promotes joy, wonder, and reverence. This type of schooling will encourage the community to lean towards healthy development and empathy, especially amongst the challenging circumstances already existing in the area’s day-to-day life.
Together, We Are Strong
Initially, we received governmental support for our vision. The municipality of Ramleh gave us space and other commonly provided governmental resources to begin our journey. But in the middle of July, 2022, they informed us they were not interested in a partnership. It is common for municipalities to abruptly withdraw support from emerging bilingual or Arabic schools in Israel. ReGeneration’s 2022 research report, “Closing the Gap: Increasing Access to Trauma-Informed Education for PCI/Arab Communities in Israel Through Waldorf Education,” closely documents the widespread phenomena of governmental bias that preserves educational inequity in Israel.
A Snobar parent and kindergartner sew together.
Undeterred, we started searching for other options, but it was too close to the start of school. We needed a place and financial support to set up the kindergarten. We established a non-profit organization to support our mission and named it “The Waldorf Association of Shared Education in Ramleh-Lod.” We also managed to rent a suitable place thanks to the support of reGeneration Education, which gave us a large grant to cover the cost of our first year’s rent. The last week of August was our biggest challenge when the community gathered for one goal, to work together so we could open this kindergarten in September. The shared vision helped us make this dream come true. Today we have seven families, two professional Waldorf nursery educators, and a Waldorf educational leader.
We must maintain this kindergarten and keep it going. Nowadays, we are asking for sponsors to help our community of parents. We want to enable the continuation of this kindergarten. We also look forward to opening more multicultural kindergartens and even a school to raise awareness of the importance of coexistence. We wholeheartedly believe joint Waldorf education can change the community in Ramleh-Lod, and we see this as a promise of a brighter future.
-The Board of Directors of The Waldorf Association of Shared Education in Ramleh-Lod