Making friends down on the farm

By Charlotte Oliver, November 25, 2013
Well fed: Hasmonean and Maria Fedelis pupils get the rural experience Photo: Yakir Zur

Well fed: Hasmonean and Maria Fedelis pupils get the rural experience Photo: Yakir Zur

Hasmonean girls were involved in a pioneering project bringing together pupils from Jewish, Christian and Muslim schools.

The Hasmonean pupils met their counterparts from the Maria Fidelis Convent School in Camden and the Azhar Academy in Forest Gate for an afternoon of rural labour in a town location, namely Spitalfields City Farm.
Before getting their hands dirty, participants were welcomed by Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks, who praised the project as a “three-way Mitzvah”.

They also heard from the Board of Deputies’ Rabbi Natan Levy, Council of Christians and Jews director Sister Margaret Shepherd and the CCJ’s Fiona Hulbert.

Sr Shepherd told the group: “We live in a strange world, a very mixed world. The most important thing is to reach out to everyone else. You have a brilliant chance today and this is only the beginning.”

Ms Marks said the venture was “particularly special” as it featured girls from schools which could all be described as Orthodox within their respective religions. “So they’re all frum in their own way.
“I think it can be quite difficult when you’re from an Orthodox background to meet people from other faith groups. But this event was way over-subscribed because so many girls wanted to come. We’re really hoping the girls will stay in touch, but also that the schools will maintain long-term connections.”

After touring the farm — which relies on charity donations and volunteers — the girls were split into mixed groups to plant wild garlic, move woodchip and feed the animals.
Hasmonean pupil Dalia Isaacson, 16, relished the opportunity to meet girls from different backgrounds.

“I hope we do more stuff like this now, because we never really do anything like this with non-Jewish charities,” she said.

The girls had “just talked about normal teenage things, like what we speak about with our friends”.
Sara Ellerman, 16, said the day had been educational on wwwa number of levels. “One of the [Muslim] girls was saying how she lives in Lebanon and if she goes to Israel, she won’t be allowed back into her home country. It really opens your eyes.”

Azhar Academy student Hafsa Abdulatif, 16, was enjoying “the community cohesion. The girls are so nice here. When we went to pray, they were all really respectful.”

Her friend, Tahera Ali, 15, added: “You learn about other faiths in school, but it’s different when you’re actually talking to them. We have a lot in common with their religions, which I didn’t really expect.”

Last updated: 10:45am, November 25 2013