Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jerusalem Day/Student Day

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, a national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in 1967. It officially became a national holiday in 1998, though it had been celebrated since 1968. Mostly it's commemorated by state ceremonies, assemblies and activities in school, etc.

As it turns out, today is also Yom HaStudentim (Day of the Student), the Israeli version of spring break. Apparently, Yom HaStudentim is not the same day in every city, but in Jerusalem it is always on Yom Yerushalayim. I don't have school today, which is a plus, but on the other hand there was an all-night concert (about 8pm until 6am) in a park near our apartment and we couldn't get to sleep all night, so I guess that's the minus...

We commemorated Yom Yerushalayim in the preschol this morning during our daily circle time. Mazal, one of the teachers, talked about her memories from before Jerusalem was unified, when Israelis couldn't access the Old City or Mt. Scopus. Then, she said, there was a big war and the wall between East and West Jerusalem came down and everyone was happy. She asked the students to name some big Jerusalem institutions that they are proud of -the Knesset, the Western Wall, the Biblical Zoo (that one was a big hit - lots of kids stood up and screamed "I've been to the zoo!") But most of the kids she called on wanted to answer the question "What is in Jerusalem" with "my house." or "grandma and grandpa's house." At some point during the conversation, Mazal started listing museums in Jerusalem and asking me if I'd been to them. "Jessica is visiting us from America," she told the kids, "so she hasn't been to a lot of places here before. She really should go see the museums. What else should she see?" "My house! You should come to my house, Jessica!" "My granparents' house!" (I don't think they really understood what she was going for). Anyway, we learned a bit about Jerusalem, and then we did some Jerusalem dances.

(I should mention that while the Jerusalem education was going on, I was sitting next to a little boy who just moved here from the US. He didn't understand any of the Hebrew, and he kept leaning over to whisper to me about dinosaurs. So as my attention drifted between him and the rest of the class, what I heard was something like, "And then the giant T-rex stands on its legs like a person and...we have hospitals in Jerusalem - how many of you were born in Haddassah on Mt Scopus? When I was a little girl we couldn't go to Mt. Scopus...he runs really fast because he's a dinosaur, but I can run faster." The kid from America has a little sister in the other class, and the other day I gave myself a headache by playing with an English-speaking 3 year old, two Hebrew-speaking 2 year olds, and a Hebrew-speaking 4 year old who is much more able to have a mature conversation - I kept speaking the wrong language to the wrong was a mess!)

As we were going down to the playground, Mazal said to me, "I can't believe I forgot to talk about how there are churches and mosques in Jerusalem. I was going to talk about how in Jerusalem the three religions live together, but I forgot all about that."

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