Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Palestine or Israel?

Every Monday afternoon, I teach a class at the al-Am’ari Refugee Camp, one of three camps in Ramallah. The official camp population is 7,500 people, living on 23 acres. The camp residents trace their family lineage to one of 40 Palestinian villages, partly or completely destroyed by Israel following the 1948 war.

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.


Blogger Imaan said...

Hi Bob,

just found your blog. Nice to read about other non-arabs experiences of living in Palestine. I myself (a swedsih woman) live in Gaza City since June this summer. I have my own blog (but it is in swedish) and I'm just starting an english blog as well.

12:07 AM  

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