Hebrew and crocheting classes in Far’ata, plus a bonus tale.
For some time now, Yudit and I have been teaching Hebrew (me) and crocheting (Yudit) to women of all ages in Far’ata.
We started with classes beginning at 2 PM. We tried different approaches: classes one after the other; classes held simultaneously – but it wasn’t very effective. Initially we both had many pupils; eventually the numbers declined, nor did the same pupils necessarily appear each session. After speaking with the women, and with the coordinators, we realized that afternoon classes are inconvenient for them. The children return from school; they have to be taken care of. We decided to move the classes to 10 AM; that’s been very successful. Although we lost some pupils, most of them young women who work in the morning (many of them teachers), it’s not possible to satisfy everyone.
Since I haven’t reported on all the classes, I’ll make up for it here: I had an open discussion with the pupils in the class before the Pesach break instead of a lesson with a text and dictation. I told them about the holiday, why we celebrate (it’s not easy discussing the ten plagues – the killing of the first-born, for example. A little cruel, no?), the Seder, family gatherings, matzo, etc. All in Hebrew. I’d prepared Arabic translations of vocabulary words and was also helped by one of the women who’d learned Hebrew on her own.
The discussion was wonderful. They were very interested in what dress I’d wear to the Seder (that really took me by surprise). They also wanted to know what gifts guests brought to the hosts of holiday meals. Of course, they told me that on their holidays the women remain home; the brothers travel to visit their sisters and bring gifts of money. The women collect the money they receive and buy themselves gold jewelry. A wonderful custom – I immediately decided to adopt it. But then I remembered - I have only a sister. And, of course, they wanted to know what we eat and how we prepare the food. In short - a wonderful conversation among women.
After I’d taught them the letters (they asked me to teach them) I prepared and distributed reading worksheets, with some words we’d learned and some new ones.
The sentences were really long and complex. In the final lesson I was very excited when every one of the 14 or 15 pupils was able to read and understand them. Their progress is amazing and moving.
The pupils in Yudit’s morning class (numbering about seven) are skillful and creative. They learn in class, continue at home and come with lovely finished work which is both complex and unique. If only there was a way to sell their handiwork.
And, to conclude: a story. A., a pupil in the Hebrew class, delicate, unmarried, about 40 years old, told us she works for a Jewish woman as a seamstress. At the end of class she asked whether we could bring her to her job in Al Funduq, next to Far’ata. A. has come to most of the classes; she’s very diligent and industrious. We brought her to work and discovered a wonderful story. Her employer is a very welcoming woman who lives in a nearby settlement. She came from the Ukraine about 20 years ago with her husband and two little children. Her children are now grown; her daughter finished the army, her son’s still a soldier. Stores place sewing orders with her. She rented a space in Al Funduq where she works all day, either alone or with A. When she began working there many years ago she didn’t know Hebrew; she learned by speaking with her Arab neighbors. A. has worked for her many years; they’re on very good terms even though they haven’t a common language. Now A. wants to learn Hebrew so they can talk to each other. Her employer said A.’s a good friend, understands her even without having to speak.
While we were there, A. underwent a metamorphosis. Suddenly her long, attractive overgarment, her closed-toe shoes, her sunglasses disappeared; before us stood a youthful, smiling girl, hair in a ponytail, wearing contact lenses, jeans and flip-flops. That’s what A. looks like in her other world. We couldn’t avoid asking the employer whether she wasn’t afraid to be alone in her shop in a Palestinian village. She replied with the speech we’d expect from an enthusiastic Machsom Watch member who hadn’t yet tired of explained there’s nothing to fear, the Palestinians are just like us, etc., etc.
You need only a knapsack and staff – the beautiful stories appear unbidden.