Tag Archives: Solidarity

Word and Picture Diary: South Hebron Hills Weekly Visit, April 5 2012

As we do every week, last Thursday April 5 2012 we went to visit several Palestinian localities in the South Hebron Hills, with whom we have been in contact for some years now. Two members of our little group – Hamed and Erella – just got back that day from a Britain tour as representatives of the Villages Group. So this week’s small visitor team consisted of Ehud and Danny.

We began with a short visit to the preschool (nursery school) in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir. This preschool, opened nearly a year ago, is located in an old building with several rooms renovated with the aid of UNRWA, close to the Saraya of Umm al-Kheir (a term that during the Ottoman Empire days designated a government structure). Two local teachers run the preschool with about twenty children, and receive their salary through the Villages Group. The preschool has undergone a significant change lately – one teacher is now in charge of the younger children (two-three year olds) in the room used as the ‘bustan’ (pre-preschool), while her colleague is in charge of the older children (four-six years old), in the other room that serves as ‘rauda’, preschool.

From the hill where the Umm al Kheir preschool is located, the young children can see the present and future prospects arranged for them by the Israeli Occupation regime. Heavy equipment is busy developing and expanding the new neighborhood at the nearby Jewish settlement Karmel (Carmel) – a development doubtlessly paid for by the Israeli and American taxpayer. Together with an additional neighborhood planned to emerge soon, the settlement will eventually surround the dwellings in this part of Umm al Kheir from three directions (north, west and south).

This stranglehold is an integral part of the Occupation’s policy. The “Civil Administration”, that regime’s arm supposedly entrusted with providing services to Palestinians, has issued demolition orders on nearly all structures belonging to the Bedouin families living in this part of Umm Al Kheir – including outhouses, sheds etc. Many of these orders have already been carried out. We have written extensively here, both about Umm Al Kheir’s demolitions and about the vicious, discriminatory and fraudulent nature of the “Civil Administration” itself. Well-known literary translator and humanist Ilana Hammerman wrote a feature article about Umm Al Kheir and Karmel, with interviews of both Bedouin and settlers. The article was published a few months ago in Ha’aretz.

From the relatively new preschool at Umm al Kheir, we drove down the road and dirt track winding into the Judean desert for a short visit to the oldest operating preschool in the area. This preschool opened its doors about six years ago, at the Bedouin locality of Hashem al Daraj.

About 30 children crowd into the rickety one-room structure of this preschool together with their teacher, Huda, a native of Umm al Kheir who lives at Hasham al Daraj. Huda has been devotedly running the preschool since its founding, determined to overcome its harsh physical conditions. We first became acquainted with this preschool over two years ago . Since that first visit we took it upon ourselves to raise funds that would ensure Huda of a regular, decent salary, compared to the irregularly-paid pittance she had earned until then. We also connected Huda and her preschool with volunteers from the MachsomWatch organization. They have been coming to the preschool ever since. Jointly with Huda and the artist Eid from Umm al Kheir, The MachsomWatch volunteers hold an arts and creativity workshop for the preschool children every two weeks. Danny’s gesture in the picture show our reluctance to leave Huda’s place where we were so warmly greeted by the children – as we needed to fit visits to other localities into our tight schedule.

In the picture above, the children of Huda’s preschool look out towards the new and much larger building that UNRWA has been erecting for them nearby. Although it is already in an advanced stage of construction, completion is delayed. It is unlikely that the children and their teacher would move in before the end of the summer vacation, when the next school year opens. Much of the credit for the recent progress in constructing pre-school facilities at the region’s Bedouin localities goes to Hamed.

After visiting Huda’s preschool at Hasham Al Daraj, we left the Bedouin part of the South Hebron Hills (the eastern-most part of the region), and headed towards the small cave-dweller hamlet of Tuba. Jewish settlements Maon and Havat Maon had disconnected Tuba years ago from the road to nearby Yatta town. Nowadays access to Tuba is only possible via a much longer roundabout dirt track that leaves the Bedouin area and winds its way over the rocky hills. As we climbed this track in Danny’s jeep, the magnificent sight of the cave-dwelling hamlet area, locally called ‘massafer Yatta’/ ‘massfarat Yatta’ (Yatta’s hinterland) came into view.

After several drought years, the current winter has been relatively wet and the short spring that is about to end has yielded especially beautiful wild-flower expanses and a healthy growth of crops in the small fields scattered along the central track of the cave region. See previous posts describing the general conditions in this region and its hardships.

Tuba is a typical cave-dwellers’ hamlet – in its small population that hardly exceeds a few dozen, the affiliation of its families to larger clans whose life-center is Yatta, the main town of the South Hebron Hills, and in the ongoing, perpetual threat of the Israeli Occupation rule and its agents – soldiers and settlers – over the inhabitants’ lifestyle. Talk of the day in Tuba was the wandering tank that startled the residents out of their night sleep as it lost its way among the wadis of the region, designated by the Occupation authorities as military maneuver zone.

Life in the cave-dwellers area has many typical characteristics. Here we describe two of them: First, the custom of parents and brothers to build toys for the little children by recycling various objects. On our current visit, our camera caught the toy that Ali Awad of Tuba built for his young son, Ism’ail.

Residents of the cave dwelling region, Tuba among them, had lived without electricity or any refrigeration until recently. The local goat-milk cheese is known for its high salinity, a means of preservation for a lengthy period of time without refrigeration. On our visit, we saw blocks of this traditional salty cheese placed to dry near the solar plates installed in Tuba two years ago by the Israeli-Palestinian team of COMET-ME.

COMET-ME is our sister organization. In 2008, renewable-energy experts among Villages Group activists started installing stand-alone solar and wind electricity generators in South Hebron hills communities. A year later, the initiative began to operate independently as COMET-ME, and quickly attained worldwide recognition and support.

Among other benefits, the renewable power units installed by COMET-ME enable residents to increase production and improve the preservation of their dairy products. Unfortunately, the “Civil Administration” has recently threatened to demolish many renewable power installations placed by COMET-ME. About the international struggle now taking place against this travesty, see the organization’s website.

At the end of our Tuba visit, we returned from the caves dwellers area to the Bedouin part and to Umm al Kheir. Unlike the local rural population that has evolved its cave-dwelling lifestyle for centuries, the Bedouins of the region are originally tent-dwellers and do not live in caves. In view of the consistent house demolition policy applied in the part of Umm al Kheir nearest to the Jewish settlement Karmel, a large number of the local residents are forced to continue living in tents. Among others, we visited the tent of the family elder, Hajj Shueib (photographed alongside his youngest daughter Rana and Ehud).

Later we also visited widow Miyaser, whose straw and stones house has been recently demolished by official thugs of our time. Some of you, especially those who support the Villages Group in Durham, Britain, have already had the opportunity to help Miyaser and her seven children by purchasing her embroidery work (in the photograph, Khulud, Miyaser’s daughter, displays her mother’s new embroidery).

Additional pictures from our visit can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnails below.

Winter at Salem: Music Center Annual Concert – and Military Raid on Center Director’s Home

The first part of this post, an account of Salem’s music center 2011 end-of-year concert held recently in the village municipality building, was written by Ikhlas (Yasmin) Gebara, the young poet from Salem (a village just outside of Nablus). Ikhlas is sitting to the left of Erella and Ehud in the picture below.

—————————————

Music is a gift for our minds and our hearts. It is a jewel that we lost and we feel happy when we find. It is the motivation that encourages us to live. It is a tool by means of which our minds and spirits operate.

By the effort of the Villages Group and members of the village, the idea of the music center materialized, converted from imagination to reality. Despite the short period since it was established, it has achieved great success and has become one of the popular centers in the village. The idea of the center started from the point of teaching children in village how to strengthen their role in society through music. In fact, the center aimed at providing a sense of pleasure since children felt that there is something they lack. So from the founders’ point of view, this lack is filled by music.

The center has been working for two years, and it was able to achieve popularity in the children’s as well as their parents’ minds. So the parents started to send their children to the center to learn how to use various musical instruments. During the last two years two groups of children graduated, and the center ended its second activity year with a concert. A big number of people attended and saw how children became creative in using musical instruments.

The event started with the coordinator of the center greeting the attendants and thanking the funders as well as the founders. Then the Palestinian national anthem was presented by the children. Then followed a series of songs which were played and sung by the pupils of the center. At the end of the concert there was a big ceremony in which the children were given certificates and the founders (who are really peace makers) were given thank-you gifts by a representative of the village council, the head of the center and a representative from the Villages Group.

Eventually, although the center is still modest it seeks for more development in order to increase the number of children and to have a crucial role in developing the village as well as empowering its children. Among our aspirations, we would like to have an independent house for the music center, so the center can grow.

Ikhlas Gebara, Salem

—————————————–

We would have loved to end the Villages Group update from Salem here. Unfortunately, on the night between January 1 and 2 – a couple of days after the concert – the Israeli Occupation’s military forces raided the house of the Center’s founder and director, Jubeir Ishtayya.

The pretext was a search for weapons. As you can see in the pictures, the soldiers caused much damage to the new home, and deeply upset Jubeir and his wife and terrified his three little children. On the following Friday, Villages Group activists paid a solidarity visit to the Ishtayya family.

Military Trial of 17-year old Amal Hamamdeh from Mufakarah. Charge: Spilling Water on Soldier

As reported here, during home demolitions in the cave-dweller village of Mufakarah, two young women who resisted nonviolently were arrested and charged with “assaulting soldiers” under the Israeli Occupation’s draconian martial law. The older of the two, Sausan Hamamdeh, reached a plea bargain in December resulting in a fine. When reporting on that development, we were fairly confident that her 17-year-old cousin Amal Hamamdeh would see her charges dropped. After all, she just tried to hand Sausan a water bottle to wash her pepper-sprayed eyes, and when soldiers interfered some water were spilled on them. We were wrong.

The first court session in Amal’s trial took place Sunday, Jabuary 15th 2012, at the military court and prison base of Ofer, in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Charges pressed by the military prosecution against Amal include throwing water and spitting at a soldier, and swearing at the security forces. The defense, by Amal’s attorney Neri Ramati (a Jewish Israeli lawyer, partner at the Gabi Lasky law firm), decided to admit pouring water on the soldier, and reject the allegations of spitting and swearing.

On the day of the arrest, while in transit to the Kiryat Arba police station, Amal was sexually harassed by one of the soldiers sitting with her in the army jeep. At the police station, the interrogators took advantage of her inexperience and lack of access to counsel (martial law is *very* convenient for interrogators and prosecutors), and managed to make her confess to throwing water at a soldier during the demolition. The next court session in Amal’s trial has been scheduled for February 5th, 2012.

It should be noted that in our experience, it is very rare to arrest and charge women in this context of protesting or resisting demolition of their homes (such protesting commonly occurs, it is a natural reaction when seeing one’s home demolished). At first we had thought these arrests were a random local initiative by the IDF officers at the site. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that now the military prosecution has stepped up and decided to throw the book, or rather, invent a book from thin air in order to intimidate these young women. This might be related to the intesification of the Occupation’s general campaign to intimidate West Bank “Area C” residents in the hope of driving many of them out and eventually annexing their land to Israel. This campaign has finally caught some mainstream attention due to a recent European Union report. We have been witnessing it and trying to stop it on the ground for years.

Below are two photos of Amal and her family, taken by Efrat Nakash during our visit at the family cave in Mufakarah, last Thursday.

On Wednesday, December 28th 2011, at Beit Ha’am on Rothshild Blvd. in Tel Aviv, an evening program of solidarity with Amal and Sausan was held, attended by about 150 people. This event was initiated by a group of activists in Israel’s massive social-justice movement, that uses Beit Ha’am as one of its activity centers. Among the evening’s organizers were Galia Tanai, Shelly Ben Shahar and Shani Solomon (who also visited Amal and Sausan in Mufakarah). The program, held in cooperation with Rabbis for Human Rights and the Villages Group, included a video interview with Sausan (at that time we still thought Amal’s charges would be dropped).

Activists of both organizations spoke and reviewed several aspects of reality in the South Hebron Hills in general, and Mufakarah in particular. Musicians Rona Kenan and Ruth Dolores Weiss gave a voluntary performance, one song of which is shown in the video below. The proceeds will go to help cover Amal and Sausan’s legal defense.

Ehud Krinis and Assaf Oron
The Villages Group

Report on Summer Camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir

The summer camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir have just ended. Both camps are organized locally, and funded with the help of outside donors. Villages Group activists help arrange these funds, work with organizers to help meet their needs, and – most rewardingly – visit the camps to interact with the kids.

————————————-

At Palestinian Susya, this has been the third consecutive year for the camp. As mentioned above, this has been a homegrown local initiative from the start. This year has seen an impressive increase in the number of participating children: more than 100 children took part each and every day for two weeks. They were divided into several groups, all led by local counselors. Many other Susya residents pitched in to help when needed, and contributed much to the camp’s success.

From our perspective, having accompanied the camp for three years, we at the Villages Group are especially impressed and encouraged this year by the widespread local mobilization, by the range of activities, by the strong organizational skills and by the spirit of participation and enjoyment prevailing among both children and grownups during the camp.

It was a time of pleasant respite for the residents of Susya, who face daily struggles with the Israeli Occupation forces, and especially with the settlers of Israel-established Sussya – who are doing all they can to embitter the lives of their Palestinian neighbors and drive them off their ancestral lands.

Funding for the camp was obtained from many individual donors, most of them Israelis, whose soul has been attached – from anear and afar – to the fate of Palestinian Susya.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

————————————————–

In mid-July, for the first time, a two-week-long summer camp was launched for children at Umm al Kheir, a Bedouin hamlet in the South Hebron Hills. The camp is organized and directed by the younger adults of this community.

Several families at Umm al Kheir have suffered extreme hardships due to their proximity to the settlement Carmel that was built on their lands thirty years ago. Heavily subsidized by the Israeli government, Carmel has continued to expand in recent years, including its chicken coops and new neighborhoods (one already constructed and populated, the other in its planning stages). The settlement has been closing in on the Bedouin families from all sides, threatening to strangle them – a process backed up by intense house demolition actions carried out by the Civil Administration and the Israeli Occupation authorities.

In view of these aggressive dispossession processes, the young educated generation at Umm al Kheir, supported by groups, organizations and individuals from the outside, has been taking measures such as founding a community center and organizing this summer camp. They hope to give the local residents, especially the children, a sense of creativity and vivaciousness facing the brutal pressures constantly exerted upon them by the Occupation apparatus.

The activities of the Umm al Kheir community center in general and the summer camp in particular are supported by the
British-Jewish fund ‘British Shalom-Salaam Trust.’

Here are a few photos from the closing day of this new summer camp. The potential here is great. Indeed, the five-women team of Umm al-Kheir’s summer-camp: Naama, Sara, Ikhlas, Thaghrid and Dalal, did their best and proved once again that by working together they are capable of doing many wonderful things for their community. We hope that the next years will show that Umm al-Kheir’s summer camp will grow to become as successful and enduring as the one at Susiya.

Yours

Ehud Krinis, Erella Dunayevsky (on the right in the last image) and Efrat Nakash (who took all the pictures featured here)
Villages Group

More from the Salem Music Center: Q&A with the Kids

The Villages Group continues to work closely with Salem’s Music Center, leading to ever-expanding relationships between the Center and the music-education community in Israel.

Below (in reverse chronological order) are descriptions of two visits from Tel Aviv to Salem that took place over the past few weeks. The opposite type of visit is far harder to arrange, although we did manage to pull one such visit off earlier this year.

The June 24 visit (scroll down to the 2nd part of the post) was especially illuminating, since at the suggestion of a Center teacher the visitors asked the students about their feelings and opinions regarding their music lessons and the broader context of childhood under Occupation.

——————– July 7:

Dear All,

On Wednesday, 7 July was a beautiful day to visit the new friends of the center: Ms Nellie who specializes in music and the conflict, Ehud and And Teacher Ruti. We talked about many topics related to the Center at Jubier’s house.

After that we went to the place of training and Ruti has worked to give a great music lesson for kids. We gained a lot of information from the lesson.

These are some pictures of the visit:

With warm regards,

Fadi Eshtayeh

Coordinator of Salem Music Centre.
fadi.ishteh@gmail.com

——————– June 24:

On Friday June 24 we paid another visit to the Salem Music Center. The visit was initiated by music teachers Dr. Ruti Katz of Tel Aviv Municipal Arts High School A, and Dr. Dochy Lichtenstein of Levinsky College of Education, joined by Ram – the high school’s principal, Galit and Orit – lecturers at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Tamar and her son Daniel, Mali and her son Noam, Itamar, and Tal (teacher at the School of Visual Theater, Jerusalem), Erella, Danny, and Ehud of Kibbutz Shoval (members of the Villages Group). Itamar, Noam and Daniel are about to start 10th grade. Itamar and Noam study music at the Arts High School.

The encounter began as Amid (a teacher at the Music Center) led a fun warm-up for all present – pupils and guests. Later, all the music students played a song together – “Katyushka” – chosen by the Salem teachers. Then the song “Kol Dodi” was taught.

Both were performed instrumentally.

After the children of the Music Center played some of their own repertoire, we sat in a large circle and a conversation ensued. Amid suggested that we ask questions, and then Salem children would have their turn.

Here are some of the questions and answers that were heard:

Ruti: How do you feel about our visits?

A student responded that they feel better with the present visit. Other children agreed, nodding.

Ruti: Why did you decide to study music?

  • Because I love music.
  • Because I can express myself through music.
  • I love music but also, beside the Music Center there are no activities for us in the village.
  • At the Music Center we can meet other people.
  • I heard the kids playing instruments so I wanted to as well.
  • Because of the company of other kids.
  • Because it fills up my free time.

Ruti: I understand that some of you study music because it’s the only option. Imagine you could also have theater classes. What would you choose?

Various children answer simultaneously – we would still choose music.

Question: What about sports? Do you have any sports activity?

  • There’s nowhere to practice.
  • No playgrounds.
  • We play on the roads.

Question: And if you could play sports?

Unanimous answer – We would still come to the Music Center.

Question: How many of you have ever been to the beach?

Most of the children never have.

Question: Would you like to visit Israel?

Unanimous answer – yes.

Dochy promised to take steps to organize a trip for them that would include attending an “East West” concert of the Philharmonic and Ensemble “Shesh Besh”, a visit to the beach and a tour of Tel Aviv.

Ruti: How many times a week do you come to the Music Center?

Three times a week.

Ruti: Isn’t it too much? Doesn’t it affect your homework?

  • It’s really not difficult.
  • I like coming here.
  • When you do something you like, it’s fun.
  • It doesn’t affect homework at all.

Ruti: Do you practice your instruments at home?

Yes.

Amid (the teacher): Just this past week, the second year students began to take their instruments home.

Ruti: Do you feel changed at all because of your music studies?

  • I feel smarter.
  • I meet more people.
  • Music studies bring order and system into our lives.

Ruti: Would you like us to come again and that our students would also come and join your studies?

  • Yes.
  • We would like you to teach us, too.
  • We would like to study other types of music, too.

Amid asks: Are you happy in the village?

Nearly a unanimous “yes”, except for a girl who murmured quietly, smiling:

“I’m not”…

Fadi arrives with lunch. The conversation draws to an end, Tal sings Saul Tchernichowsky’s “Credo” in Arabic and Hebrew, and Amid plays two songs.

Recorded by Dr. Ruti Katz

Villages Group: Planned Projects for 2011

Dear friends and supporters,

In the attached pdf file you will find an overview of the Villages Group’s current programs, appended with the financial requirements of each program.

We encourage anyone of you who wants to help us in achieving the implementation of those programs to get in touch with us.

All the best,

Ehud Krinis in the name of the Villages Group

Salem’s Music Center Team Visits Tel Aviv And Jaffa

Dear Friends,

The last months saw the development of connections between the Music Center that opened about a year ago in the village of Salem, near Nablus, and several people from the well-stablished Alef High-School of Arts in Tel Aviv. Ram and Rutie, who are leading this initiative from the Israeli side, initiated and organized for Jubier, Fadi and Amid – the Music Center’s team, a visit of three days in Tel Aviv. The visit took place during Purim and included meetings and workshops.

The team from Salem met Mario – a teacher for self-expression and communication through music in the Tel Aviv high-school, and three of his pupils; they had a workshop with Fouad, a teacher for music education in Jaffa, and accompanied him on his daily work in the city; and they had the privilege to meet Amos, a musician from Tel Aviv, specializing in building and playing the oud (see attached photos).

The visit took place while West Bank residents were under the closure regularly imposed on them during Jewish holidays. It was possible to hold the visit in these circumstances, due to the efforts of Buma Inbar to secure permits that were valid despite of the closure.

We see this visit as part of an ongoing effort to create connections between this groundbreaking project of music education in Salem and professionals and supporters from Israel and abroad. This effort will continue at the end of next week, when Dr. Felicity Laurence from the University of Newcastle, a world known expert in teaching chorus singing to children, will arrive for her second visit in Salem’s Music Center.

Second School Year Opens at Salem’s Music Center

On Saturday February 19 we visited the Salem Music Center. We were accompanied by three professionals – Fuad, a music teacher from Tel Aviv-Yaffa, Ram – principal of Tel Aviv’s art high school, and Ruti – head of that school’s music department.

The occasion was the opening of a second school year at the Center, absorbing a second cohort of students in addition to last year’s students who continue their work (see here for a description of the first year’s graduation concert). Some challenges facing the Center in its second year:

  • Moving from the local council building to a rented building dedicated solely to Center activities;
  • Expanding the teacher staff to accommodate the additional students;
  • Expanding the deepening the relationships with professionals in Israel and abroad;
  • Deepening the commitment and involvement of student families, including a larger financial participation in covering costs;
  • Expanding the donor base to enable the increase in activities.

If you are interested in getting involved and supporting, please do not hesitate to contact us. We have a new email address: villagesgroup1@gmail.com.

Or contact Mr. Jubier Ishteh, the Center’s founder and director: jubier10@gmail.com, or the administrative and financial manager, Fadi Ishteh: fadi.ishteh@gmail.com.

All the best,

Ehud Krinis

Family, Friends and Volunteers Renovate Hajja Sara’s Kitchen Tent

The image below was taken during our visit to Hajja Sara of Palestinian Susiya on Thursday January 6. Her tent kitchen was torched before dawn on December 28, apparently by neighboring settlers – part of a wave of escalation in the area.

Following news of the incident, family and friends in Palestine and Israel, as well as Israeli and international groups, have enlisted to help in donation and work on the ground. Hajja Sara’s kitchen now stands again. We too have received donations in money and in kind (cooking equipment), and will deliver them shortly to Hajja Sara and her family.

Hajja Sara (seated front left), with family and friends, celebrating the rebuilt kitchen tent

The warm and rapid response has uplifted the spirits of the aging Hajja. However, with all the satisfaction we must not forget that Palestinian Susiya remains under the continuing danger of destruction and expulsion, not just by settlers but by the official forces of the State of Israel. The Occupation authorities, dominated by settler interests, see any act of construction and renovation as illegal.

Hebrew Lessons at the Learning and Creativity Center in Susiya

Guest Post – Yael Arbel

“You must come to see Susiya.”

In all truth, I am fascinated by the stories I hear about Susya. I have not been there since the cold, muddy winter of 2002, when we trekked with Ta’ayush activists to bring blankets for those living there, only to be detained by the army. I don’t think I even got to see them at the end of that march. [editor comment: that particular march did reach its destination, see here]

“People in Susiya really want to study Hebrew. I think it’s a fitting task for you.”

Yes, I’ll come to look at it.

But only to look, I cautioned myself. I have no time to travel repeatedly from Tel Aviv to Susiya. I have children and a demanding, endless work, and the trip is so long . . . . Well, maybe I can come just once a month to consult them? So I came, and by visit’s end I was explaining that it’s impossible to learn a language with less than a weekly lesson, and so I promised to come again next week. In short, I fell in love with the community.

First, I got to know the renovated tent that became the “Learning and Creativity Center.” The day I visited, physicians and nurses from the Palestinian Health Organization were using the tent to receive patients. Next week, Inbal and I taught there a large, mixed group of boys and girls, young men and women, and adult men (but not adult women). At another corner, an artist taught some residents to crochet old plastic bags. Two months later, I saw the results of his teaching: artistic, colorful creations of embroidery, beautiful and practical.


As time went on, I got to know the Susiya children – those generous, loving hosts of my daughter, who ran with her all over the place, jumping over rocks and winding among the farm animals. To concentrate on my teacher’s role, I stopped bringing her, but the kids kept asking about her, when will she come again. We ate with the kids, danced, played, and attempted to speak Hebrew. They chased a family of geese.

Then I got to know the men, those who had learned Hebrew through work in Israel. Today, very few get to leave Susiya for work, and there are no opportunities to practice their Hebrew. The women know just a few words, and they are fearful of making mistakes. They speak to me in Arabic, hoping I will understand. Each visit I understand a little more.

Inbal and I take a practical approach to teaching Hebrew. Conversation, familiarity with the Alphabet, practical words and Hebrew/Arabic cognates. The boys were immediately drawn to Inbal, recognizing in her the Israeli incarnation of Pippi Longstockings. Meanwhile, I have been teaching a group of girls of various ages, who have shown extraordinary linguistic talents. And I teach the young children as well – writing and playing with letters and words.

I am used to teaching students who already know Hebrew, who are looking for change, for play, for breaking the routine. I am used to teaching kids who live in far greater comfort than Susiya’s kids can ever imagine. Jewish kids, who live in Tel Aviv and study at the Democratic School.

Susiya is entirely different. The students have no pencils. At times, they must leave to do something else more important. The girls may have to watch a young brother or prepare dinner. Other times, they all go out to look at the Settlers amassing on the hills overlooking Susiya. Their mothers don’t attend my lessons; at most they look on from the side. I am waiting for them to accept my invitation to join. But those who come are eager to learn. They want to write in a notebook, to have a dictation, to memorize; they want an authoritative teacher. I am far from authoritative. Our democratic teaching methods strike them as not serious. But they don’t want us to leave. “Just one more sentence,” begs Wuffa. While we pack our bags, Sara and Islam are still seating and reading the pages we left behind. Kusai understands almost everything we say. See, in spite of everything, Hebrew is being taught here!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers