A Makeshift Kindergarten for a Resilient Community

My name is Daniel Crook. I am an Oleh from Habonim Dror Australia, a member of HeChalutz, and a member of an educators Kibbutz of Dror Yisrael in Tel Aviv. 

On Saturday the 14th of October I left Tel Aviv for Mitzpeh Ramon, located in the middle of Israel's Negev desert, in order to work with the evacuated residents of Kibbutz Erez, a Kibbutz on the northern border of Gaza. I heard from other members of Hechalutz in Mitzpeh Ramon that the members of Kibbutz Erez were attempting to create a kindergarten for their children. As a kindergarten teacher myself, I understood that I am uniquely placed to be able to help them in this dream, considering the unfathomable circumstances that they face. 

I arrived in Mitzpeh Ramon, walked into a dirty hall and began working on my task: to turn a junk-filled room into a kindergarten. A space for joy, play and growth. The crazy juxtaposition of what a kindergarten should be next to the reality of what we are facing in this war was suddenly overwhelming. Over the next few hours countless Kibbutz members walked into the room and immediately asked, “what can I do?” They filled me with a sense of solidarity, and in a shared effort and with a lot of donated games and toys, we turned a junk-filled hall into a makeshift kindergarten. 

For the last two weeks I have been a kindergarten teacher to twenty-five of the evacuated children of Kibbutz Erez, together with a team of volunteers from the Kibbutz itself. We have returned smiles to the faces of the children. We have returned a sense of routine and familiarity to the children and their parents. Each day is filled with play, laughs, silly conversation, dance and artwork. I have seen the power of love in our work to reinstil security in the lives of children and adults who are facing unimaginable horrors.

The strength of community and togetherness amongst the members of the Kibbutz has astounded me. Many Kibbutz members expressed to me the miracle that they are still alive and shared their horrific stories of fear and loss. Each member has tens of people they know, close friends, family and colleagues, who were brutally murdered or taken hostage by Hamas, but despite this I have been inspired and watched in awe as I have seen firsthand the resilience of the human spirit. In the face of pure evil, fear and loss, I have seen their ability to continue to choose life, to choose creation, to fight the forces of despair, and to continue fighting for a world and life of good.