Circle School of Ramla
The circle is symbolic of equality and continuity, as well as the multiple layers surrounding each child: individual, family, community, society and humanity. Every child has infinite potential, as does the circle.
City of Ramla
Historically, Ramla was the capital of a Muslim empire, established 1,300 years ago as an intersection along an ancient trade route. The city of Ramla is located centrally between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but its governmental neglect and negative reputation including high rates of poverty, crime and a rampant drug issue, have led to its classification as a peripheral - essentially working-class - city. Ramla is a microcosm of Israel’s vibrantly diverse demographics. People of different origins, race and religion reside side-by-side in this mixed city. Christians (Catholic and Greek Orthodox) Jews (often struggling immigrants) and Muslims alike share the resources of this small town. Approximately 29% (or 19 thousand people) of the city residents are new immigrants who have arrived from over 50 different countries, primarily the former Soviet Union states, Ethiopia and South American states.
Board of Directors
As a non-profit organization, the company is overseen by a Board of Directors, consisting of nine members.
The Interdisciplinary Centre of Herzliya is associated with the Circle School through an annual internship program, providing two students from the international government program with the opportunity to gain experience working in the civil sector of Israel.
Currently, two government students are contributing to the Circle School under the internship program during an initial research stage:
In the classroom, two teachers will communicate with the children primarily in Hebrew or Arabic to support the bilingual environment and ease the development of native-speaking children into a secondary language. The presence of two teachers in each classroom allows a reduced ratio to the students. Parents are expected to be fully involved in the process of their children being engaged in a multicultural and creative environment. For example, a weekly vocabulary list of new Hebrew, Arabic and English words learned in class will be shared with the parents for reinforcement at home.
The Circle School of Ramla has been featured in articles by the Canadian Jewish News, Shalom Toronto (in both English and Hebrew) and Avantgarde magazine.
In March 2011, co-founders of the Circle School Lianne Merkur and Jalil Dabit were interviewed by journalist Jonathan Kahan from the Avantgarde magazine of IDC Herzliya.
Jalil Dabit, 29, was born and raised in Ramla from a Christian Greek-Orthodox family... He attended a Jewish school, and nothing in his looks or accent betrays his Arab origins. "I can trace my family tree in this area seven hundred years back"- he says... "I am rooted in this place, and I wouldn’t leave it. People here are real people. This is real Israel". In this city they both love, Lianne and Jalil have decided to make their vision come true. They are in the process of opening a kindergarten for children from every background, with an original curriculum and alternative education. A few months ago, they registered an NGO called "Circle School", and the first class is expected to start in 2012. "We decided to open a kindergarten to take care of children from the very roots" – says Jalil... "Jews, Arabs, new immigrants, refugee kids, Muslims, Christians, Bedouins…" Lianne continues: "I grew up in downtown Toronto, and the environment is very diverse. You see people with every possible background, standing side by side, but retaining their own identity. Here too there is a lot of diversity, but people stay within their own groups. We want to change this. In Circle School kindergarten, kids will learn Hebrew, English and Arabic in class. They will appreciate the fact that there are other cultures; they will not be scared of people who are different, because hey, even if they have another background, they are your friends who you grew up with. It will not be something unknown, but rather something familiar they will feel comfortable with".
In May 2011, the Circle School of Ramla was featured in a Hebrew language article by Shalom Toronto, a newspaper targeted toward Israelis living in Canada.
להביא את הפלורליזם הקנדי לישראל "כבר בגיל 17 התוויתי את התכנית העסקית לגן חדשני", מספרת ליאן כשעיניה בורקות. "גן שהילדים המשתתפים בו יהיו מרקעים שונים, כולם ילמדו יחד". ליאן רצתה להביא את הרוח הקנדית לישראל, "כמו שמדברים בקנדה באנגלית וצרפתית כך גם בישראל עברית וערבית יחדיו", אומרת. ליאן בחרה בעיר רמלה בגלל הפסיפס האנושי המרכיב את העיר. כעיר קולטת עלייה, רמלה קלטה כשליש מתושביה מחבר המדינות בגל העלייה שהחל בסוף שנות ה-80. כיום, שלושה רבעים מתושביה העיר רמלה הם יהודים, כ-18% ערבים מוסלמים ו-4.5% ערבים נוצרים. החיכוכים בין התושבים אשר מתפרסמים לעיתים בחדשות מחזקים עוד יותר את הסטיגמה שדבקה בעיר. ליאן מרקר, החליטה להקים את גן הילדים התלת שפתי כדי ליצור שינוי בדרך החשיבה וגם כדי לתת אפשרות לעתיד טוב יותר לילדי העיר. את עמותת "חינוך במעגל" הקימה יחד עם ג'ליל, שותף ערבי נוצרי אשר יחדיו הם מפתחים את החזון של הגן. את השפה העברית היא דוברת באופן שוטף מהבית, אך את השפה הערבית לא הכירה, ולכן בחרה לנסוע למרוקו למשך חודשיים. "יצאתי למרוקו כדי ללמוד לקרוא את האותיות הערביות, במשך חודשיים, גרתי בעיר רבט, ובמהלכם היה חודש הרמדאן. במשך היום אסור היה לאכול. זו הייתה תקופה מאוד מעניינת עבורי, הכרתי אנשים רבים שלא אוהבים את ישראל ועמוסים בסטראוטיפים נגד. במיוחד משום שגדלתי בטורונטו, הייתי מוטרדת מהסטיגמות והשנאה. תמיד חונכתי על הערכת האחר, במרוקו התפיסה מאוד מבודדת ומבוססת על אפליה. במרוקו לא מכבדים בני עדות אחרות מלבד האסלאם". 
A similar article by Shalom Toronto is also available in English.
In August 2011, the Circle School of Ramla was featured in an article by the Canadian Jewish News, a weekly nation-wide newspaper with circulation of 35,000 households.
A mid-sized city with a population of about 70,000, Ramla has a majority of Jewish residents and an Arab population of about 20 per cent. “I think education is the best way to overcome stereotypes,” Merkur said. “If you don’t integrate people, they can’t understand each other.” Merkur, who attended Jewish day schools as a youngster, said that, as the child of an Israeli mother and a Canadian-born father, she grew up with a dual identity and looks to Canada as a model of pluralism. What distinguishes the Circle School from other multicultural schools in Israel, Merkur believes, is that others emphasize Jewish-Arab relations. “I feel if you put a label on it, you’re emphasizing the difference, and saying this is the problem.” As well, she noted, there are other divisions in Israeli society, such as those between immigrants and sabras. “This is a school for everybody.”
- ^ Circle School
- ^ Demographic Structure
- ^ http://portal.idc.ac.il/He/Main/about_idc/news_events/DocLib2/131_ramla.pdf
- ^ http://shalomtoronto.ca/news/1491-1493-1511-1497-1493-1501-1497-1492-1493-1491-1497-1506-1512-1489-1497-/
- ^ http://www.cjnews.com/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21801&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=86
- Circle School of Ramla - official website
- Circle School of Ramla - old website
- IDC Avantgarde magazine, March 2011 interview
-  Shalom Toronto, May 2011 interview - in Hebrew
-  Canadian Jewish News, August 2011 interview
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