JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 7 – Shaar Ha Negev Region
Reflections from Kensington Public School NSW and Bellevue Hill Primary School NSW
Louise Stone – Principal – Kensington Public School NSW
Today was another incredible day of learning. It started with sunrise at the beautiful Kibbutz Tzeelim. After being told where the bomb shelters were last night we all went to bed a little out of our comfort zone but slept well after a very emotional day. As we woke there were strange noises overhead-very unfamiliar for Aussies and Kiwi! It turned out to be army tanks from the n
eighbouring army base practising manoeuvres.
Breakfast in the dining hall was yet another smorgasbord of amazing Israeli delicacies. The food on the whole trip has been not only amazing but unbelievably plentiful to say the least.
We then headed to the buses towards Kfar Aza Kibbutz. On the way we stopped at a park honouring the Black Arrow Operation which is a memorial site very close to the Gaza border.
Kfar Aza is a kibbutz around 1km from Gaza. So as we Australians spend part of our summer holiday 1km from Gaza, we explored life in this kibbutz. Hanita a mum and grandmother who has lived for 27 years on this kibbutz showed us around and spoke about life living so close to the border. She discussed hearing the bombs every day. About 900 people live on the kibbutz and some simply leave for a few days and go to other areas of Israel when things become heightened. All hom
es and school buildings have bomb shelters and it has been mandatory by law for quite a few years now.
Later in the morning we were divided into three groups to work with students from pre schools, primary schools and high schools at the Shaar HaNegev School. At the primary school we met the principal and teachers and discussed the school. Their class sizes comprise 30-35 students and there are 830 students in total attending the primary school. Our schools were invited to start up a penpal program to enable the children from their school to practise communicating in English. The teachers discussed working with students on developing resilience to ensure their wellbeing. She reinforced the importance of school,routine and education as imperative tools for the future.
We then moved onto the The Switch Centre for lunch. It’s an Industrial Park near
Rahat and is the most populated Bedouin Community in Israel. There are 300,000 Bedouins in Israel and 250,000 live in the South. A conversation about the centre started over 17 years ago and was generously supported through JNF and Harry Triguboff. It was developed to support the integration and inclusion of the Bedouin community. We then heard about a unique school in the area that is bilingual where students are taught in Hebrew and Arabic. It’s one of only a few bilingual schools in Israel and is called the Desert Stars Young Leadership High School.
Our last stop for the day was the Be’er Sheva ANZAC Memorial Centre incorporating the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. It was opened on 31 October 2017 as a memorial to the ANZAC Troops who spearheaded the Egyptian Expeditionary Force to evict the Turkish Ottoman Army from Sinai, Palestine and Syria. The Battle of Be’er Sheva is recognised as an extremely important moment in the history of the Land of Israel.
Back at the kibbutz we enjoyed dinner, a beautiful song from Tammy, reflections from the last few days followed by a free evening. It was another night of collegial conversations, developing friendships from around Australia and a time to debrief and enjoy the facilities of the amazing Kibbutz Tzeelim.
Jacqueline Galler – Teacher – English Literacy – Bellevue Hill Primary School – NSW
Another relaxing start to the day, sleep in, late breakfast, leisurely chats, this is what kibbutz life is all about…
Unless you’re on the JNF Educators tour of Israel and you have a tight schedule, jam packed to the brim with wonderful opportunities to showcase a different perspective of Israel.
Our first stop was the Kfar Aza observation point, which overlooks the Gaza border.
This stop provided us all with a fascinating insight into the current situation in Gaza and the ongoing threat to neighbouring communities.
Many of the communities in Israel that border Gaza are constantly on guard awaiting the siren that gives them 15 seconds to get to a shelter-which could mean the difference between
life or death. However, rather than fleeing in fear and choosing to pursue a l
ife elsewhere, they stay and pride themselves on building and creating a flourishing and rapidly
Video- Rabbi Yossi Friedman – Maroubra Synagogue NSW – Black Arrow
During our tour today it was eye opening to visit a number of communities that offered us all a unique insight into something we can so easily take for granted coming from a safe and secure country like Australia. The mindset of constantly having to be aware of the nearest shelter in case of attack is at the forefront of the minds of all civilans living in these areas. I won’t take my mindless morning walks to get coffee for granted again.
Our stop at the Kfar Aza Kibbutz offered us a unique insight into community life in a modern Kibbutz.
Kfar Aza has been fortunate enough to recieve ongoing support from the JNF, which has enabled them to expand and develop the community. They have built libraries, community centres and synagogues, which in turn creates an appealing environment for young families and draws more people into the kibbutz.
From here our tour split into 3 groups to visit educational facilities for pre-school, primary school and high school students.
Pre School – Kfar Aza
The Sha’ar Negev Primary School has approximately 870 children, with classes averaging 30+ students.
These students are actively encouraged to pursue both academic and personal achievement through a number of enrichment and extra-curricular programs.
Students at Sha’ar HaNegev are provided with numerous opportunties to excel and develop their individual talents. This is something educators all over the world
endeavour to provide to their classes. A component of school life here, that is not universal, is one in which trauma and fear underpins every facet of school life. Teachers have to adapt their curriculum to focus on strategies that help students navigate and manage life in conditions that see them under constantthreat from rockets and bombs. Teaching strength and resilience enables students to pursue
their studies in an environment of routine and structure, despite the uncertainty that they face
everyday, knowing the siren could sound at any time.
My take away from today, is that students in Sha’ar HaNegev are not unlike their peers around the world. They too are obsessed with technology, playing soccer and doing the floss. They have amazing educators and communities that work tirelessly in order to provide them with some semblance of a normal childhood and educational experiences through dedication and effective well-being programs. I only hope that upon my return, I can instill resilience and perseverance
as was showcased at Sha’ar HaNegev in my own students.
Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally get that sleep in…