Israel: Ein Bustan is the first Waldorfkindergarten, located in the small Arab town Hilf near Kiryat Tivon, which is being attended by both, Jewish and Arab children. It was founded in 2005 and meanwhile the initiative includes a toddler group with 20 children. Together they celebrate the holidays and traditions of both cultures and are involved in activities such as gardening, music, singing, playtime and story time.
It is the end of the week in Israel: in traditional Jewish households, the Shabbat (day of rest) is being prepared, while Muslim-Arab families gather for prayers at the mosque. In Moslem culture, it is believed that Adam, the first man and prophet on earth, came down from paradise to Earth on a Friday, and therefore “Yum Elkiama” (End of Days) will also happen on a Friday. After the prayers, it is up to individuals to return to everyday life.
Ein Bustan opens its doors for children of both cultures and together they play and work together, and celebrate the holidays of each culture/religion. Traditional Jewish songs and customs are integrated to the curriculum and the Shabbat is being welcomed, by lighting Sabbath candles and baking Challa bread. It was much more difficult to find something similar in Arabic. So the teacher wrote a prayer that all children can speak and composed a song about the baking of Challa bread, which is sung during bread baking. It says: Now we have bread and salt among us - a paraphrase in Arabic for friendship and peace.
The idea for the kindergarten Ein Bustan developed, when, Amir Shlomian, peace activist, musician and Waldorf teacher, was looking for a kindergarten for his son, which would prepare him to live in a multicultural society, but should also conform to certain values. He did not find such an educational initiative. He looked around for people who shared his desire, and thus the founders of a new kindergarten came together. A Jewish and an Arab Waldorf kindergarten teacher, and several parents started to work towards that goal. In succession a non-profit organization was founded, a curriculum developed, discussions were organized, rooms renovated and toys made. On September 1, 2005, Ein Bustan, which means fountain in the garden, was officially opened.
The kindergarten teachers all speak Hebrew and Arabic and integrate both languages into the kindergarten routine, as in singing and story telling. The concerns that children do not understand each other due to the different languages have been diffused, since experience has shown how well the children can communicate and how quickly they learn the respective new language.
For the children the two languages mainly make up the difference amongst each other at first, for parents, there are more separating elements, which seem difficult to overcome. Therefore a lot of emphasis lies on the work of the educators, who are trying to include the parents into the kindergarten life. The building and crafting or sewing of toys as a joint activity for the children is the mean that connects the parents of both cultures represents the basis for new friendships.