Earlier this month, the city of Haifa was treated to a one-of-a-kind performance when Beit Hatzeirim (The Children’s House) put on a play conceived, produced and performed by the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who call Beit Hatzeirim their second home.
A capacity crowd of 200 people, families, friends and supporters packed the local community center for the play, which the children called “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Kid.” Guided by Tal Valentine, director of Beit Hatzeirim and member of Akko Educators’ Kibbutz, they chose to write a play about the real lived experience of children growing up in Israel, and it was a deeply moving performance for all those present.
“What makes this kind of activity and Beit Hatzeirim so special, is that to run a place like this, you can only really come and do this kind of thing when you’re part of a community. When I was first exposed to the idea of an educators’ kibbutz, I was like, ‘a kibbutz in the city? I don’t really get it.’ But now I totally understand the unique inputs it brings. Seeing all the families here together, as somebody who sits and dreams about what a community should look like, what education should look like, what civil service should look like – to see it all come together here is just amazing,” said Sigal Tzioni, Haifa Municipal Council Member for Education and the Status of Children, addressing the children after the performance. “I want to congratulate you and wish you many many more incredible successes. Your obligation is to keep dreaming, my obligation is to make sure Beit Hatzeirim has what it needs to continue.”
Michal Friente, a social worker responsible for young families in the Hadar neighborhood social services department, described how the experience impacted her.
“I’m still having chills from the event yesterday and I think it will stay with me for a very long time. I have never attended such a respectful, loving and empowering event for the children of Hadar. You created an event that was built entirely on love, acceptance, partnership and respect.
This year Beit Hatzeirim has a large number of children who receive welfare services from the municipality, some of whom I know personally and I know the kinds of challenges they have to deal with in their personal lives. To be at Beit Hatzeirim, and to be part of the educational process that led to this play, is something that can be a complete life-changer for these children. I looked in their eyes when they were on stage and I saw the joy and excitement of self-discovery, of new talents and abilities and pride, which for some of these kids are just not emotions that they get to feel very often. I also looked at their parents and saw the pride in their eyes as they watched their kids on stage…there are certain conditions in which an experience like that is worth three years of emotional therapy.
Yesterday, the children were the most important thing in the room, they were the center of everything, and everybody came to see them. The more experiences like that they rack up in these formative years of their lives, the better the chance they have…
Thank you so much for what you are doing for the neighborhood and for these kids.”
The evening was concluded by Jasmine Bugrachov, 4th grade, and Natalie Mengistu, 5th grade, who left the crowd with the following words:
“We wanted to tell you about Beit Hatzeirim. It’s like a second home for us. It’s the place where we spend more time than anywhere else. I love Beit Hatzeirim because everyone is welcome there and accepted and loved. At first it’s a little embarrassing. Beit Hatzeirim was the place where I found older people to guide me, where I met new friends and became friends with people who I never would have before. A month ago we started doing rehearsals for our play “When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Kid.” We rehearsed, and rehearsed again, and again. So many rehearsals, until we were ready and knew all of the scenes by heart.
We think the main message of the play is that being a kid is the best. When you’re a kid, you can do what you really want, because kids don’t need to go to work. At the end of the day, kids are more free.
I want Beit Hatzeirim to keep succeeding so that when I have a kid of my own I can send them here. Thank you all for coming, may all of you succeed in living as the kids you are deep down.”