Gush Etzion Foundation

Achdut Yisrael (Achi) School, Tekoa

Achdut Yisrael (Achi) School, Tekoa

Teacher: “How was Shabbat?”
Sarit, 4th grade: “It was fun. My grandparents came for Shabbat. When shul (synagogue) was over, we went to the petting zoo and watched the animals.”
Yaakov, same 4th grade class: “It was fun. On Shabbat we went to the pool, and afterwards we watched “E.T. – The Extraterrestrial”.
Two children studying in the same class, living in the same community. A school that contains and caters to students on such a broad continuum of Jewish practice is quite unusual.
Educational approach – in a nutshell
The community of Tekoa, in Gush Etzion, is home to a unique school- Achdut Yisrael (Unity of Israel) – serving a mixed religious and non-religious population. The school was established as part of a vision of a unified nation, connected to its heritage, and containing differences and opposites with each side learning from the other. The main emphases at the school are:
• A school for Jews of different lifestyles – secular, traditional, and religious – who grow and are enriched by diversity and difference.
• A bond with the ground and with nature; nurturing of environmental awareness
• Holistic and inter-disciplinary learning, with the involvement and creative input of students and teachers alike.
• Encouragement of a positive view of the world and of oneself, and progress motivated by the personal strengths of teachers and students.
• Familiarity with and knowledge of the world of technology and innovation, along with developing a bond with the land, labor, and simplicity.
Our dream:
1. Developing the study yard
Along with making use of advanced technology, we also believe in a connection with the environment, with the ground, and natural simplicity. Hence, students participate in many hikes and outings, which occupy a central place in the curriculum. The yard is also an important part of our study environment. The school building was planned in such a way that every classroom opens directly onto the yard outside. At present, the yard includes rudimentary vegetable patches, a petting zoo, and work centers for construction and creativity.
Our dream is to broaden the students’ hands-on interaction with the ground and its produce, by expanding the yard and making the most of the expansive outside area that holds much potential. Our plan is to invest in groundwork and infrastructure for an additional area of three dunams. The yard could then be divided into plots, by means of stone “terraces”, creating an area in which each class can grow different types of plants.
2. Therapeutic work space
This is a special project for students with behavioral and/or emotional difficulties, who have trouble integrating in the school framework, both academically and socially. The project envisions active therapy with these students, within a specially designated area, in order to regulate behavior. The first stage in this therapy is to help the students develop a sense of confidence and a comfortable feeling at school, and then to work on self-awareness and self-control. A positive, significant social group is created through joint activities including various construction projects, horse-riding, and open discussion of difficulties. These students are no longer marginalized and they no longer feel alone.
At present, the project operates without a budget and the activity is conducted on a minimal scale, in a dilapidated temporary structure, for a very small number of students.

Funding
Owing to the tremendous importance of both projects, they are both already been implemented, despite the dearth of resources. The activities are being undertaken on a very small scale, funded solely by parents. With more significant funding we hope to run these projects on a more established basis.

ItemDetailsCost (in USD)
Developing the study yard
Groundwork, development of yard – 3 dunams Construction of agricultural terraces with divisions for class plots60,187
Installation of irrigation system control center12,213
Irrigation pipe system11,600
Therapeutic work space
Renovation of prefab structure, equipment20,000
Professional therapist50,400
Therapeutic horse-riding instruction30,000
Total project cost: 184,000