School starts in Migron despite threat of demolition

With no other school available for the small children, Ro’eh decided to open the Migron school, as if this was just another year.

KINDERGARTEN BEGINS in Migron 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
“One, two, three, four, who is coming to our class?” sang nursery school teacher Orly Cohen Monday morning as she stood in a circle of children on the first day of school in the West Bank Migron outpost.
Behind her, on the bulletin board, she had pasted the words, “A sweet start,” in multi-colored block letters.
Underneath, she placed each child’s name on paper cutouts shaped like a candycane lollipops.
The room, with its well-stocked reading corner, shelves of games and childsize tables, looked just like many other similar type classrooms throughout Israel.
Except that, unlike most teachers in other parts of the country, Cohen and the other five staff members present had no idea if the school would be open beyond Tuesday.
The High Court of Justice has ordered the 50 families that live in the outpost to evacuate by the time it holds a hearing on the matter at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
But Migron residents and Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro’eh believe that the evacuation order does not have to be executed until after the hearing. They remain hopeful that the court will either set a new evacuation date or rescind the order altogether.
On Monday residents petitioned the court to delay the evacuation because the modular housing site they are scheduled to relocate to – two kilometers away, near the Psagot winery – is not finished. Among the buildings still under-construction is a school for 64 children ages three to five, to replace the one that now exists in the Migron outpost.
With no other school available for the small children, Ro’eh decided to open the Migron school, as if this was just another year.
For two days prior to the start, staff members elaborately decorated the two one-room caravans that house the school. These are separated by a small dirt playground, containing climbing equipment, a slide and a sandbox.
Psychologists advised the nursery staff not to discuss the pending evacuation with the children in class, so instead they decided to give the children a happy day in a safe and cheerful environment.
They filled the walls with pictures, letters, numbers and religious objects, just as if the children would be in the class all year.
Preschool teacher Netta Bashari, from nearby Psagot, who has been working at the school for four years said, “They have to come to place that is nice to be [in].” She even set up drawers for their things, with name tags and pictures and pinned a large yellow happy face on the bulletin board and wrote, “We start with a smile.”
Standing in the doorway of her classroom, Bashari said, “We hope to stay.”
Obviously, she added, she was aware that this might not be possible.
“That feeling is hard,” she said, adding, though, that, “We were excited to see the children.”
During this year, said Bashari, she will teach them basic skills sets such as the alphabet, numbers, colors and the Jewish holidays. On the wall, she had hung a small wooden ark, with a tiny Torah scroll and a number of stuffed scrolls inside.
“What is fun about children that small, is that they are so innocent and unaware,” she said.
Looking at the nursery and kindergarten pupils playing in her classroom, Cohen said, “I want to believe that we are staying, but I do not know what will be.”
Some of the children know about the issue from their parents, she said. But she did not make it part of the school day.
Cohen, of the nearby Kochav Ya’acov settlement, who has taught at the school for the past 10 years, spent the morning and early afternoon smiling and singing with the children. At one point, she held up two hand puppets, one a green frog, and another one that looked like a girl with hair made from bright pink yarn.
First the puppets sang hello to the children, than they spoke with them. She asked the children to vote on a name for the girl puppets, explaining as she went which numbers were larger and which were smaller.
One child suggested the name, “Diego.”
“No,” said another child, “that’s a boy’s name. You want a girl’s name.”
The puppet shook her head in agreement.
The class opted for Tzfarda, a name that was similar to the frog’s, Tzfardi.
Throughout the year Cohen hopes to teach them to respect each other and to love the land of Israel.
At the end of the class, as the the children were putting on their knapsacks to meet their parents, she told them, “I had a fun day, and I am already looking forward to tomorrow.”