House of Hope School

House of Hope elementary school takes a holistic approach to education in the West Bank crisis zone. Palestinian children often suffer excessive and prolonged activation of their bodies’ stress response systems due to violence from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In order to diminish their fear and stress to tolerable levels, Palestinian children, like those living in any war zone, shut down their senses and emotions. This has debilitating individual consequences, as children exposed to toxic stress are at greater risk for developing a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties. Unaddressed trauma also has negative implications for regional peace as nervous system suppression undermines their future capacity to respond nonviolently to their ongoing trauma, much less become agents of peace.

Traditional approaches to education for Palestinian children in the West Bank do not address trauma or decrease the likelihood that students will respond to the injustices they experience with violence. House of Hope’s holistic learning environment gently and effectively supports students to overcome trauma-induced educational barriers and achieve academic and prosocial development goals. Students learn healthy coping skills, such as art and music expression, therapeutic body movement and other self-esteem affirming activities.

House of Hope is deeply inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf education movement, and is the only emerging Waldorf inspired elementary school in the West Bank. In addition to creating a Waldorf learning environment, House of Hope staff also teaches students Nonviolent Communication, a healing approach to conflict resolution that gives them the skills to understand what triggers them, deepen their connection with themselves and others, and transform their habitual or unfolding responses to the injustices they experience. House of Hope students also embrace cultural diversity as a strategy for healing in the “Beloved Community” curriculum that examines principles for love and forgiveness shared by the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. During their summer holiday, House of Hope art, music and dance therapy programs are safe-havens for children who might otherwise be in the streets.

The impact of House of Hope’s life-giving work is documented by teachers who report students’ individual achievement in behavioral and academic areas. Many children start their time at House of Hope quiet and withdrawn, and with time, engage with their classmates and teachers and achieve academic goals.

Over 60 students are currently enrolled in House of Hope’s K-4 school, and the administration anticipates opening a 5th grade in the 2019/2020 school year. It’s student achievement and community acceptance assert that House of Hope’s successful model for trauma-informed elementary education can be easily replicated throughout the West Bank.