The Reishit School is a unique school, located in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem, on the grounds of Kibbutz Rosh Tsurim in Gush Etzion.
Reishit was established in 2000, by its Parents' Committee and has flourished ever since. Today, the school has 14 classes, from first to seventh grades. Reishit is now educating over 320 students, including 60 children who are developmentally challenged.
The cornerstone of the Reishit School is its fundamental commitment to mainstreaming children with special needs (for example, those with Down Syndrome, autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc.) within every classroom. These children learn alongside their peers, and are assisted by professional staff members at all times, and are instructed on the basis of individualized curricula.
Every Reishit classroom has three staff members: the classroom teacher, who is responsible for the general class curriculum; the Special Education teacher, who is responsible for the progress of each child who is mainstreamed, both within the general classroom structure and according to his/her individual educational program; a National Service volunteer who is also an aide in the mainstreaming process, both during class time and during recess. In addition, students are treated by the following: Occupational, Speech, Art and Animal therapists, each according to their particular needs.
The Reishit School's "raison d'etre" is based on three basic principles: the love of Torah, love of the Land of Israel and love of one's fellow man. In order to help children internalize these values, Reishit offers them multi-faceted opportunities throughout their school day. The teaching of Torah or Jewish holidays, for example, is made deeper and more spiritual by incorporating a thematic approach, to include studies in Art, Nature, Geography, Geology, Mathematics and History. Each week, students spend part of their day at a learning center, where they participate in experiential learning, be it planting flowers or vegetables, harvesting, threshing and grinding wheat, pressing olives for oil, weaving and spinning wool for yarn, etc. Each activity is directly linked to their Torah studies. In addition, the students go on frequent hikes, in and around the kibbutz, wherein they can internalize, through both familiarity and knowledge, a love of plant and animal life in their surroundings. As a result, they are far more able to make the direct connection between what is written in Torah to the Land they have inherited.
Reishit's chosen educational methodology best serves our Special Needs students, in that they have the opportunity to absorb more advanced communication skills and learn to function within the "outside world". Both groups of students benefit immensely from the ability to actively develop relationships with others different from themselves. The unique setting of the Reishit classroom thus enables its students to grasp that each person has his/her strengths and talents. This respect for others is part and parcel of a larger process which can engender a healthier society, containing the two populations, in the future.
The Reishit School is the only school of its kind in Israel, where students are totally mainstreamed within the larger classroom. Many families have chosen to relocate to Gush Etzion, in order to avail their children of this important educational opportunity.