28 October 2007

HeDegelim (The Flags)

I've been out of commission for a while...here's a post I started writing in a word document last Monday:

Today was my second day of school (Yes, I finally started Hebrew U and neglected to write about it.).

So far, my Hebrew class has been all sorts of easy (that’s what she said). Many of my classmates in Ramah Aleph (read: complete and utter unfamiliarity with the letters, sounds and language of Hebrew) are newbies that don’t even speak English, let alone Hebrew. My discomfort in getting around Jerusalem is lessened when I think of my classmates. Thanks, Schadenfreude!

My extremely limited vocabulary is proving useful, and by useful, I mean I’m bored to tears. Not really bored. More like insulted and angry, because I know that while this class is too easy, Ramah Bet (Level 2) would prove to challenging for me, because I don’t know how to talk. At all. (THANKS JTS / Hebrew High / Anybody else who wants their chip resting on my shoulder)

Today, one of the exercises we did fulfilled the following big ideas (thanks UBD):
1. Students will become familiar with their fellow classmates.
2. Students will be able to use these words in a sentence: דגל (degel/flag), של (shel/of).
3. Students will represent themselves in a unique way (though drawing/coloring).

In case you hadn’t caught on yet, here is the sequence of instruction for this segment of class today:
1. Introduction / Grabber – meet the new kids in class! (5 minutes)
2. Review of yesterday’s vocabulary (15 minutes)
a. Yayyin = wine, Matana = Gift, Degel = flag, etc....
b. Read dialogues on page 21 in groups of two or three.
c. Complete flag-identifying exercise on page 26.
3. Introduce new word (5 minutes)
a. Shel = of
b. Have students use the word in a sentence. (Zeh hadegel shel America / Ireland / etc. = this is the flag of America / Ireland / etc.)
4. Activity (10 minutes)
a. Distribute half-sheets of plain, white paper.
b. Distribute pastel crayons
c. Instruct students to draw their home country’s flag on the sheet of paper.
d. After 5 minutes of drawing time, collect flags and stand students in a circle. Have students identify the flags as they are held up by the instructor.
e. And so on and so forth.

I took a little license with my flag-drawing, because the red pastel crayon was very popular (There are some Chinese students in my class, and their entire flag, save the yellow stars, is red! Austria, Poland, France...lots of red in the flags, so I got creative.). My American flag had grey stars on a blue background and orange stripes. (If only I was not in Ramah Aleph, I could have said, “The University of Florida is in Gainesville, but the Gator Nation is Everywhere.” I could have even supplemented it with an orange flag with a blue Star of David in the middle, with a horizontal blue stripe on both the top and the bottom.)

We identified the flags – Korea, China, Austria (OK, I didn’t identify Austria. I suck at flag identification.). Then there was a flag that I for sure couldn’t place. And I wasn’t alone. Not a single classmate could identify the flag. The girl who drew it piped up, “Zeh ha-degel shel Palesteen.” (This is the flag of Palestine.) My heart caught in my throat, and I thought, disdainfully: “Why is there a Palestinian in my Hebrew class?”

I hated myself for thinking that. My father always jokes that I am an empty-headed Liberal, and I agree, at least, that I am liberal. I mull the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, and I imagine a two-state solution. But even with all of my education, with the liberal mind that comes from a TON of reading, I was still scared. And confused. And like an empty-headed conservative, I thought to myself: “There is NO Palestine.”

Please allow me to quote my boyfriend's pontifications on the subject: "Hebrew U is one of the few places where there is a real model for coexistance, with Israelis and Palestinians learning in the same classrooms and preparing their minds for the complexities of our very troubled world, and hopefully, learning techniques through which the very deep wounds can be healed." (Yes, this was transcribed word for word. Thanks, Raf, for speaking slowly.)

And the next day, I made a point. I made a point to talk with the girl from Palestine. Because, after all, I believe in coexistance and I believe in peace. And that peace is going to start with me, shoving the conservative biases out of my head, and connecting over what I know best: a really cute pair of shoes.

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