The following was written by Naama, a volunteer completing her National Service with Rabbis for Human Rights. Part of her responsibilities include supporting Ibtisam, a local Jahalin Bedouin woman, twice a week in her work organizing the after school program for the children in al Jabel (outside of Maale Adumim).
For a long time Ibtisam has wanted to paint the classroom where she teaches the Jahalin children English and art crafts. The room was concrete grey and both her and I wanted to make it look nice and joyful for the kids. We first painted the outside and inside white. Next, we painted an unused room which we plan to use as a second classroom for the smaller children – although we still need to get a few chairs and tables for it. We really need this second classroom since so many children are coming to Ibtisam’s center and they are at varying levels of English. After we finished painting it all white with the help of Yehiel (Rabbi Yehiel Greinmann, RHR’s Director of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) and Ibtisam’s younger brother, we scheduled the last part with the kids for Tuesday right before they were supposed to go back to school from their winter break. When I came with Natanya, whose been volunteering to take me with her car, the girls were so excited to start. We let them choose what they wanted to paint on the wall and we started working. We drew Sponge-Bob, Dora, Tom & Jerry, and a few other drawings they choose from a book.
One day as we were painting together, I asked Ibtisam about the school that the kids go to. She described it saying, “If you see the children in the morning walking their way to school they would be stooping and frowning, and when they leave school at noon, they are running and cheerful.” This made me realize how amazing it is then that the kids are coming to Ibtisam to learn after school! There they are, every week, sitting proudly with their notebooks, gobbling up every word Ibtisam teaches them. Even if they don’t remember everything they learn, their drive to study astonishes me.
NOTE: On request of the families, the children were only photographer from the back.
More on the Jahalin Bedouin and our work protecting their rights