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.”

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Read more at Atlantic

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

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror