Native Country
The interreligious kindergarten

The interreligious kindergarten

When the grammar school was inaugurated on October 1, 1994 I did believe that I could finally retire. After all, all my voluntary and honorary activities and my cooking events took place in my spare time. At the age of 58, I was looking back on a teaching career of some 29 years at a school in Cologne, in subjects such as electrical engineering, electronics and maths. But then I heard someone say that both a primary school and a kindergarten were needed urgently.

During my visits to Ramle (in Israel) I had noticed that unfortunately there was a considerable gap between the Jewish population (who counted for 80% of the people) and the minority Arab population, although all of them were Israeli citizens.

All of this convinced me that something had to be done to further the peaceful co-existence of the people in Ramle, which is the basis for my current project.

I decided to help by building a new kindergarten which was to accept Christian, Muslim and Jewish children. My thoughts were that this idea of peace would pass from the children to their parents creating a desire for mutual tolerance and acceptance starting at a very early age, and ultimately leading to a life of dignity led on equal terms without fear or hatred.

This project also motivated me to continue to offer oriental dishes at various private and other religious events in nearly all of Germany. I cook at birthdays, wedding anniversaries, at church conventions such as the Catholic Convention in Hamburg for about 1000 people or the ecumenical convention in Berlin, a 3-day event at which I cooked for 500, as well as the World Youth Day 2005.

When I visited Ramle I was often asked whether Jews would be prepared to send their kids to kindergarten together with Arab kids.

I followed up on this question and visited several Jewish and Arab kindergartens. I felt that their setup and configuration were actually quite basic.

I came to the conclusion that if a we were to build an exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary kindergarten to surpass other kindergartens in many aspects, then some Jewish families may be prepared to send their children to “our” kindergarten leading to others that might well follow.

The designated plot for the planned interreligious kindergarten is ideally situated right between the Arab quarter and an area to be newly developed featuring business and residential accommodation where mainly Jewish people would live.

These were (and still are) some of the considerations for the planned kindergarten:

  • The kindergarten should be an all-day kindergarten and benefit from the latest educational insights. A committee of Jewish, Christian and Muslim mothers in close co-operation with the teaching staff should decide on the implementation and realisation of the educational principles.
  • The kindergarten should accept children of 3 months to 5 years of age.
  • Children with special educational needs (e.g. handicapped children) should also be accepted.
  • Bi-lingual education (Hebrew and Arabic) will be one of the principles to be followed.
  • Daily contact and interaction with the environment and „basic elements“ (water, earth, minerals) as well as the fauna and flora on the premises is a very important part of the educational programme.
  • The meal(s) for the children are to be prepared from fresh ingredients on a daily basis.
  • It is planned to provide facilities to supervise homework of 6-10 year olds as well.
  • Children of other religions are also to be accepted.
  • The kindergarten will conform to latest ecological standards. Two internationally renowned experts in ecological construction, Professor Dr. Ing. G. Minke, in co-operation with Dipl. Ing. F. Mahlke of the University of Kassel in Germany, are responsible for its design.
  • Electricity will partly be provided by a photo-voltaic system. Rain water will be collected for irrigation. In the main natural materials, such as timber, clay and Jerusalem stones will be used in construction.

The building will also be used as a cultural centre for concerts, seminars, theatrical performances, lectures as well as interreligious contact and dialogue. We intend that our project should help both the children and their parents, and thereby all adults to become active participants in the peace process.

Although we already have collected more than half the projected costs of our project - through donations, alms and the proceeds from the cooking events – we do need further donations to be able to commence construction soon. The people of Ramle are yearning for peace.

Such a project as ours is but a small stone in the mosaic. But we do feel strongly that projects like this should evolve to promote ethnic tolerance and mutual understanding, so that people preserve their hope for peace and reconciliation, even in this current unpromising atmosphere.

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