We have to keep playing. From the desk of Meitarim’s CEO, Dr. Ranit Budai-Hyman
If I have strings they vibrate
If I have a worry, it is almost exposed
If I have love it will be expressed quietly
If I have roots they slowly extend
(Week Day Song/ Rachel Shapira)
The name Meitarim signifies harmony that is created by the combination of different strings. Every string, stretched between two ends produces a unique sound. Strumming a single string yields a single and unique but monotonous resonance. Only a combination of them and strumming them all will create a tune in which every string contributes its unique shade of sound.
Meitarim’s goal is to enable a joint living environment and educational framework for all the strings stretched in the sphere. An environment that would emit harmonious sounds comprised of students from a variety of Jewish identities on the succession between religious and secular, all studying together.
In promoting inclusion of populations and values in the communities and the education system, Meitarim provides an alternative to the dichotomy of Israeli society and the state secular and religious educational system in content and educational practice. The immediate social encounter with the other is significant and powerful, and in Meitarim the encounter is accompanied and mediated.
In inclusive education – alongside the social encounter, Meitarim brings the families and the students coming from all backgrounds a message on levels that are beyond the importance of living together. Besides the ability to contain divergence and variety without being shaken, we generate the opportunity to find out, deepen, develop and compose their Jewish content. The aspiration is that all Meitarim alumni will be able to browse, find, read, understand, create, comment on and act out Jewish content because it belongs to us all, and all of us, secular, traditional and religious, have ownership in the Jewish content world. The students learn that absolute atheists too, can be educated in the Jewish bookcase, since Judaism is not only a religion of faith but also a culture that is imprinted in every Jew. Parallel to the above, the orthodox students learn that there is nothing to fear multiple voices and commentaries, and that they illuminate fascinating angles and enrich the Jewish world. The students do not recite prayers and chants without understanding their meaning, and don’t give up on general, universal and democratic knowledge. The students are exposed to a multitude of topics and content and develop their ability to enter a dialog with them. Thus is created a Beit Midrash style educational leadership with a unique way of thinking.
Meitarim’s pedagogy places emphasis on pluralistic Jewish education that allows for a multiplicity of voices and expressions of Jewish heritage from within the diversity of the Jewish population and enables the students to access Jewish sources and make their voices heard. In this environment it is possible to formulate and deepen the identity, so that apart from the harmony between the strings, the educational environment also offers a resonance box that can give each of the different strings the depth of their unique sound.
In inclusive communities – from a social aspect, when living together and joining hands the members succeed in overthrowing the walls of separatism, breaking through the ghettos, and in the seam that embraces the members from different backgrounds a value-based Jewish partnership and new narrative develops that may lead to a change in Israeli society. In our view, this is the creed of the land. This is Zionism.
In every community one can find disagreement. The secret of Meitarim’s charm is the ongoing dialogue and community discourse through which a decision is made by all members of the community. Meitarim communities are not identical, because in every community discourse, different decisions are made. Meitarim does not present the expected result, but rather the tools to achieve any result that meets the specific needs of the community, enabling it to produce pleasant harmony between all strings living within it. Despite the great differences between the communities and the education institutions, they share a worldview and world of values and content that is unique in Israeli society.
The tremendous social and educational enterprise established during these years is recognized by the communities and educational teams. The thirst for establishing more and more mixed communities and frameworks is noticeable. The initiators embark on a journey made up of faith in vision, in an attempt to fulfill a dream. Naturally, in the implementation phase, there is a gap between dreams that come true and the imagination that gives rise to them. Often, the founders of the frameworks and new members of an inclusive community come across potholes and obstacles. It is important for us to flood the experiences, the successes, the moments of satisfaction, as well as the glitches and frustrations, and from them to develop and grow. We see the utmost importance for the effect created by the recognition of each community that it is not an individual pioneer, but a part of a growing movement of communities that has championed the value of inclusive populations and values into education. We encourage meetings between inclusive communities, sharing and peer learning communities to create the feeling of every community and educational institution that it is part of a family. The Meitarim family.
To conclude, I would like to commend all those involved in coexistence and inclusive education, parents, families, administrators and education staff, and to bless you with “They shall still bring forth fruit”. You are the pioneers who have undertaken to work for the formation of Israeli society as an integrative society in a Jewish and democratic state. Keep thriving in living together with inclusive education as a real way of life. You are not just talking about Klal Israel but are really going about it every day hour by hour. Our path is the one that addresses the deep root of the religious-secular rift in Israel. Continue to be the beacon before the camp and lead the roadmap that brings back Judaism to all of us be we religious, traditional or secular.