Recently I took a look at this report on the world in 2030. It is bleak with little pieces of hope strewn about to make sure we don't get too sad when thinking about the future. The politics, racism and hate of this place make it hard to imagine massive change in a positive sense. It is hard to imagine us choosing to embrace new technologies and new ways of organizing over here. But every now and then I hear from someone who is working in fields that focus on technology and the future and who see the potential that we hold as a species on a daily basis and it opens a door that I had previously shut.
Banner in Ramallah, West Bank, on November 29, 2012
This article was originally published at Waging Nonviolence.
After the overwhelming “yes” vote on Mahmoud Abbas’ bid for Palestinian non-member observer state status at the United Nations on November 29, a friend in Canada wrote to me wondering if I would go and dance in the street in Tel Aviv. I might have been out there dancing if there had been any sign that anyone else was out there that night. I hate dancing alone.
Few in Israel were vocally in support of the bid. Strange, since it was a modest proposal that did nothing to harm Israel and only spoke of raising the status of Palestine in the eyes of the United Nations from an “entity” to a “state,” which seems like a reasonable step toward the “two-state solution” that so many Israelis claim to support. It was also a proposal that would not have any immediate impact on the ground in terms of ending the occupation — although it might have an impact on the way in which we think about what is possible.
I moved to Israel last year with two missions in mind: Learn Hebrew and work to end the occupation, which is, in my opinion, essential to both Jewish and Palestinian Liberation in Israel and Palestine.
With these goals in mind, and others, a group of language learners and teachers have come together to create a Hebrew learning space called “This is Not an Ulpan”.
I have spent a cumulative 16 months in various Ulpan (Hebrew language study) programs during my (some would say) short life. I’ve successfully completed Ulpan Aleph and Bet on Kibbutzim and (some would say) successfully completed another Bet and a Gimmel in Tel Aviv Ulpan programs. It’s safe to say that I know Ulpan.
I have spent so much time (and I will continue to do so) learning Hebrew because it is at the core of my Socialist-Zionist, Jewish identity. It is one of the most important ways that I engage with my culture and my people. Language and culture affect each other and I want to participate in that process in Israel, with the Jewish people, in our language: Hebrew.
I have known for some time that I have not really enjoyed learning in the Ulpan spaces that I have experienced, but for years I thought it was just a result of the often uninspired lessons, which view the learner, as Paulo Freire would put it, a bank account ready for a knowledge deposit. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Plenty of great teachers work in the Ulpan system. In the last few months it has dawned on me that it's both the form and content of that system that doesn't sit right with me.