"Preschool Teachers Yasmeen and Noga Run a Jewish-Arab Preschool that Celebrates Coexistence"
(Written by Fauzi Abu Toama, published in hadera.mynet.co.il on 9.1.22)
Noga Shitrit and Yasmeen Abu-Ful run an integrated Jewish-Arab preschool within the Hand in Hand “Bridge over the Wadi” school. “Students here are taught to treat one another equally, and with tolerance and respect,” they say.
Noga Shitrit, a resident of Katzir, and Yasmeen Abu-Ful, a resident of Kafr Qara, work together at “Bridge over the Wadi,” a bilingual school located in Kafr Qara, which was established in 2004. Together they run an integrated preschool.
Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have suffered several blows in recent years. The “Bridge over the Wadi” school, which educates Jewish and Arab students in an integrated environment, was founded in 2004 as a means of promoting coexistence. The school was born out of a joint initiative led by local Wadi Ara Jewish and Arab parents in collaboration with Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, and was rooted in the belief that a shared society of Jewish and Arab is indeed possible, and sorely needed.
When asked what made them choose to become preschool teachers at a Jewish-Arab school, Noga and Yasmeen say it is the belief that they must live their life in partnership and have good neighborly relations. “Knowing the culture of the other, the traditions, holidays, and language. This is the right way to bring about change,” they say.
Shitrit, 47, is a married mother of 4. Abu-Ful, 40, is a married mother of 3. Yasmeen studied at Beit Berl’s teacher training school, specializing in preschool education. When she heard about the concept of a shared Arab-Jewish school, she was thrilled and joined the founding group in 2004. Noga studied special education, but the idea of a bi-national school appealed to her, and she began her work there as a homeroom teacher, and later on pivoted to teaching preschool.
Noga and Yasmeen believe that knowing “the other” in a deep and true way lends itself to overcoming and preventing prejudice, and leads to the formation of bonds that would otherwise rarely form. “As far as the children are concerned, they are being taught to treat each other equally, with tolerance and respect, to solve conflict through conversations and dialogue. This is our reality – living and playing together in two languages,” they say.
They see the preschool as one big family, and believe in working together with the children, the educators, and the parents. They believe that a fun and positive learning environment first requires that children feel safe and cared for. “Our ultimate goal is that children feel safe at the preschool, and then comes learning,” says Yasmeen. Noga says they speak with preschoolers with respect, as equals: “We want to create a cohesive group where each member is treated with respect, and we also see each child as uniquely special, with particular needs and wants.”
Their dream is that the school will continue to grow and attract more Jewish students. “It is important to us that the community will expand, and that there will be a greater understanding in Israeli society that this school is important and necessary in creating shared living in this region,” says Noga. Yasmeen says it is equally important that funds be allocated to this cause. “We want to see more integrated schools open up in this country, and more Arab and Jewish children playing together, and learning about one another in preschool. This is the only solution to the existing rifts between both societies, and the way to encourage coexistence.”