The Woman Who Gave the Kibbutzim Their Junkyard Kindergartens

June 17 2021

Born in Berlin in 1920, Malka (neé Hilde) Haas rejected her parents’ assimilationist attitude, embraced Zionism, and soon after Hitler came to power left for the Land of Israel. She eventually settled in Sde Eliyahu, the religious kibbutz where she still lives, and went on to become the leading figure in Israeli early-childhood education. Her central pedagogical theory can best be summed up by the phrase “junkyard playground.” Matti Friedman tells her story:

The people who built Sde Eliyahu, many of them German Jews who’d escaped the Nazis, were kids themselves: on the day in 1939 when the first tents went up on these steamy flatlands by the Jordan, Haas was nineteen. There were no adults around to give advice on how to raise a family. Their own parents were in Europe, where many were later murdered. They were on their own.

Like the rest of her comrades, Haas never had the chance to finish high school, but she’d attended a teachers’ seminary for six months, making her the kibbutz’s closest thing to an authority on education. She took charge of the kindergarten.

The children were part of a community of workers, Haas thought. They should play with discarded objects from the fields, workshops, and kitchens, putting them to whatever use they desired. They’d build together with no instruction, and what they built didn’t have to make sense to adults. As she explained much later, after her ideas became celebrated and were taught to aspiring teachers, pieces of junk “do not represent the broken, rusty, dirty remnants of human activity, but rather all the multifaceted richness that life has to offer.”

Some people asked Haas, for example, if it was a good idea to let children work barefoot in the yard. The answer, she wrote, was obvious: “A barefoot child learns faster to take care of himself, because the feelings he gets through his feet sharpen his understanding.”

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Education, Israeli education, Kibbutz movement, Nazi Germany

Russia’s Alliance with Hizballah Is Growing Stronger

Tehran’s ongoing cooperation with Moscow has recently garnered public attention because of the Kremlin’s use of Iranian arms against Ukraine, but it extends much further, including to the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Aurora Ortega and Matthew Levitt explain:

Over the last few years, Russia has quietly extended its reach into Lebanon, seeking to cultivate cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, while sidelining the U.S. and elevating Moscow’s role as a peacemaker.

Russia’s alliance with Hizballah was born out of the conflict in Syria, where Russian and Hizballah forces fought side-by-side in an alliance with the Assad regime. For years, this alliance appeared strictly limited to military activity in Syria, but in 2018, Hizballah and Russia began to engage in unprecedented joint sanctions-evasion activities. . . . In November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury exposed a convoluted trade-based oil-smuggling sanctions-evasion scheme directed by Hizballah and [Iran].

The enhanced level of collaboration between Russia and Hizballah is not limited to sanctions evasion. In March 2021, Hizballah sent a delegation to Moscow, on its second-ever “diplomatic” visit to the country. Unlike its first visit a decade prior, which was enveloped in secrecy with no media exposure, this visit was well publicized. During their three days in Moscow, Hizballah representatives met with various Russian officials, including the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. . . . Just three months after this visit to Moscow, Hizballah received the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov in Beirut to discuss further collaboration on joint projects.

Read more at Royal United Services Institute

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Lebanon, Russia