The Woman Who Gave the Kibbutzim Their Junkyard Kindergartens

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


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy