Palestine or Israel?
My class is for 10th graders and it’s purely voluntary, although I suspect that some of the students’ parents force them to attend to keep them out of the house. There are about 12 girls and two boys. Similar to 10th graders the world over, some are quiet and raise their hands and wait to speak until called upon, and others do not. One girl, who has difficulty sitting in the same chair for more than a few minutes, would probably be labeled with attention deficit disorder in America; however, I don’t think there is a term for it in Arabic yet.
Yesterday, we read a passage from their school textbook, which is called English for Palestine, published last year and part of a new curriculum devised by the Palestinian Ministry of Education, one of the quasi-governmental institutions created in the Palestinian territories according to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. The reading told the life story of Mahmoud Darwish, who is by far the most recognized Palestinian literary figure. Darwish lived for 21 years in Israel – from 1949 to 1970 – but the passage did not include the word Israel. (Darwish now lives in Ramallah, after spending much of his adult life in Europe.) It twice mentioned “Israelis,” but never called the land Israel. Curious, I flipped through the book and found a world map on the inside front cover. According to the map, the country that is bordered by Lebanon and Syria to the north, Jordan to the east and Egypt to the south is called Palestine. Most of the world, of course, calls it Israel.