The Open House in Ramle - a peace education center in Ramle, Israel
 

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Nursery School


The Nursery School at OPEN HOUSE is not only a warm nest where each child is treated as an individual, it is also an important basis for the continuing programs of OPEN HOUSE which they attend later on. These Arab toddlers come from Christian and Muslim homes, and, as they grow, they become volunteers and Summer Peace Camp counselors. Some four years ago, we could not assure the continuity of our Nursery School. It became a source of anxiety because we could not assure the salaries of the teachers on time. Consequently, with great sadness, the Board of Directors considered closing the facility, the first of its kind in Ramle. However, the parents had other ideas. Here are excerpts from what they wrote to the Board:

“Many generations were raised in the past twenty years at the Open House nursery school. The feedback that has been received is that these children have fruitfully integrated in other frameworks as they grew up… [The OPEN HOUSE nursery school] raises children with the values of equality, patience, acceptance, exposure to the different religions and holidays… We have a desire for every child in Ramle to grow up with these values and to be treated in a way that enables their healthy growth and development.”

The parents offered to make every effort to raise the resources to keep the Nursery School open. And they did. They raised the funds for the children’s food through the generosity of the local people and publicized our Nursery School among new parents.

 
Speaking of food, all children have a healthy mid-morning meal at 10 am, full of vegetables and fruit. Those who stay for the afternoon have a hot, nourishing, home-cooked meal in the style of the best local cuisine. We now have 24 toddlers and 3 teachers. Fifteen of the children stay for the afternoon because their parents work. Twenty-four is a good number for us because that means we have just the right ratio of teachers to children. We also have a helper for times of sickness and for the day off each teacher gets in addition to Shabbat. Three teachers and a helper—that’s quite a lot for the budget, especially as our teachers receive social benefits, as well.

Our three Nursery School teachers (from left): Lamis Salman, Joanna Wahhab and Nadia Khil.

The three Nursery School teachers are Lamis Salman, Joanna Wahhab and Nadia Khil.
Lamis has been working at our Nursery School for over 20 years and, in her own words, “was growing up” with us. So were her three children. Her older daughter Bissan, an OPEN HOUSE attendee from the preschool on, is now studying conflict resolution in London. Her son Sami participated in all our Summer Peace Camps, including during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when he gave an interview about his feelings and thoughts as the rockets were falling in Israel and villages were bombed in Lebanon. At such a challenging time for all, he experienced the solace of Jewish and Arab children comforting each other and keeping their minds on constructive activities, rather than sitting at home and watching the horrors on TV. Lively and creative Lynn, the youngest child, has also been intensely involved both as a participant and volunteer, though she is only fourteen. We count on her to soon be old enough to join The Journey and, like her sister Bissan, to serve later as a counselor for the high school students.

 

Our children enjoy a weekly music and movement workshop as well as our traditional workshop for connection with, and responsibility for, animals. In this workshop we have to struggle with some of our conditioned fears and to replace them with compassion and caring. It is part of our ecological commitment and our contribution to the wellbeing of the next generation.