A MISSION OF PEACE: WALDORF EDUCATION IN PALESTINE

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As parents, sometimes you can be so overcome with happiness and pride in your children’s accomplishments that laughter and tears tumble together in a burst of sheer joy. So it is for Gordon and me for our oldest daughter, Lauren, a long time Waldorf teacher and director of Early Childhood at Rudolf Steiner College, returned from her mission for Waldorf education in the West Bank where she had gone with friend and teacher, Anna Rainville, for a two week seminar (in February) with an emphasis on early childhood. We gratefully share this good news of a wonderful meeting with Palestinian teachers and friends.

Seven women orchestrated the presentation, four coming from the US, one from England, and two from Palestine, joining together in remarkable harmony and high level creativity to meet the situation there. The first challenge was having over twice as many teachers attending as expected, instead of 80 they had 180! The effort was spear headed by Shepha Vainstein, whose has long worked to build bridges of peace in the middle East through Waldorf education, with a special focus on Palestine. A therapist specializing in PTSD, she has spent years working with the Interfaith community fund raising for this event through the non profit she founded, reGeneration, promoting Waldorf education throughout the middle East for all the children, in both Israel and Palestine. There are over 100 schools in Israel, only one in Palestine.

The seminar took place in the university in Jinen, a small village in the West Bank, that Lauren described as nearly untouched by the corporate West except for Cokes in some of the markets. There are no liquor stores or bars. Things have changed since Lauren lived in Egypt years ago; the women are now driving and some wearing modern clothes (but always head scarves) and everyone has a cell phone. But she found the Arab people as warm hearted and hospitable as she had remembered.

There is a lush valley around Jinen growing fruits and vegetables which use few expensive chemicals. With classic Arab hospitality, she was invited to their homes and seated on the floor with pillows, partaking of a festive array of tasty dishes eaten with fingers and followed with pungent strong coffee. Much conversation, laughter, and singing accompanied the meals. She said her hotel room, shared with several others, became the ‘party’ room where conviviality reigned and the main problem was lack of sleep!

Together they unfolded the wonder of the Waldorf early childhood work for the large groups, from the rich curriculum inspired by the deep insights into human development of Rudolf Steiner, spiritual insights so profound this education has worked in diverse cultures all around the world for nearly 100 years. It works because it speaks universally to our truth as individuals of body, soul, and spirit.

The minister of education for Palestine was impressed and hosted them to visit a church from 300 AD where Christ had healed the lepers. It was a deeply moving experience, Lauren said, to walk the ground where Christ had walked, ministered, and healed.

With a merry heart, Lauren laughed and reported , “I’ve never had so many hugs, kisses, and photographs taken with people ever! “ Dr. Wael abu Hassan, a remarkable clinical psychologist and college professor who helped make it all happen at the University at Jinen, (along with a doctor of biology, Dr.I. Rola Jallah ) told Lauren, “You came with an open heart, you taught from the heart, and we have received it in our hearts.” He later communicated to me that what they brought to Jinen was beyond expectation-’Love, Passion, and Peace’ he described it. He further related that people are still contacting him and reflecting on the historical event that the brave California women brought to the children of Jinen in the West Bank.

We all feel it was a special miracle and blessing that this international sharing could take place just now. Would that more people could meet across the world and come to know each other, for this is how peace is born! We rejoice in this dedicated golden effort to meet and support the children and families of the West Bank. And we are deeply grateful that Lauren and her colleagues were the ambassadors of peace that made this dream come true!

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