During the first week of programming of Ulpan SF, an intense three week Hebrew study, I was dealt what appeared a small setback. I was taken aside by the teacher and told that I might be a better fit for the lower level class. I do not test well and the weekly quiz had hit me like a ton of bricks. Two of my classmates had already shed their Kita Bet (Class Level II) skins and joined the Kita Aleph (Class Level I) class earlier in the week. Now, I was to do the same, and I felt as if my world was collapsing underneath my feet. When I joined Yaffa's class I was greeted with people who were a couple chapters behind where Kita Bet had begun class, and suddenly realized that the class was Kita Bet light. It was then that I realized that there was a grand restructuring of the levels and that the former Kita Bet was now Kita Bet/Gimmel (Class Level II/III).
That said I didn't let the Ulpan sorting phase my learning objective. Yaffa's favorite saying seemed to be "either use it or lose it," and the class רץ (ran) so fast, that before long I was able envision using some of the teaching methods with my own students, Whom I only really introduce roots to during the school year, to further their Wednesday night Hebrew study. There were other teachers in class, and they were feeling empowered as well. Throughout the next two weeks my vocabulary grew and my American accent changed, and was replaced by an Israeli one. I began to think in Hebrew, and started to talk to my family in Hebrew.
I learned of the shelling, the bombing, and the new ground operation in Hebrew. At lunchtime I learned of the death of a mother and newborn baby from a young man in Kita Dalet (Level IV) who's friend had just given birth in Gaza. I also found out that the young man from Gaza had never met a Jew or an Israeli until he started a PhD program at NYU this past year. In fact, he had always been taught that Jews were only soldiers with guns. His father, his grandfather and the elders in his community had known Jewish people, yet not his generation.
This story struck me in so many ways, that a young man has to go so far outside of his comfort zone to be allowed to meet and get to know a person from a neighboring country is unsatisfactory. Our children must be a priority, we must strive to creat spaces where our kids are able to have fun and meet the other, before they begin to make the connection between otherness and danger.
When I think about all the antisemitism in the world currently, in Europe, the Middle East and even in North America, the othering is staggering. If we all just got to know one another, perhaps we could change the world for the better hand in hand. Rather than makings this or that person the other, if we sat with them, broke bread with them, cried with them, and created paths to a peaceful world with them, we could all be so much happier.
That is my Pollyanna moment from the week. Tonight I am at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center bringing my full on Pollyanna out and being that dreamer...