I want to take this opportunity to thank you again for helping to support Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders through your generous donations and concern! I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that everyone in Al Aqaba really appreciated our first English teacher, Kali Rubaii; see Kali's report below with photos. Kali taught children, two groups of teens, and an adult group -- and her classes kept growing as her reputation spread! Even a group of bank tellers in the neighboring town of Tubas asked to attend English classes in Al Aqaba! Our second English teacher, Morgan Bach, just arrived in Al Aqaba last Thursday.
We wondered if Morgan would be able to arrive because early that morning, the Israeli Army closed Al Aqaba Village and demolished the home of three families, the Peace Road, a water cistern and one other road. This was the 2nd demolition of the Peace Road. We heard about it early and did our best to call the U.S. Embassy and Consulate, and the consulates of other countries, to ask their help to make this stop. Our board member, Souzan Jaber, was there waiting outside the village with the Governor of Tubas who was also barred from entry. When the soldiers left the village, the destruction along the Eastern side of town was clear to see. Heartbreaking.
Despite this, Kali's report describes the sense of hope that people of Al Aqaba, especially the young people, hold in their hearts. I know you share that determination.
Rudy San Miguel
This summer I taught English courses in Al Aqaba. I taught about 60 students: 20 girls ages 9-12, 20 young boys ages 14-16, and 20 adults (mostly University students and local farmers and shepherds) ages 18-50. For the younger students, we covered many topics, often using songs and dances to understand colors and numbers (The Very Hungry Caterpillar was perfect for this), or the parts of the human body (Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and Simona Says were big hits!). Eventually each student practiced leading the rest of the class in song. My favorite lesson for the children's classes was a week-long drawing exercise in which they drew their house or dream house and then labeled the parts of their drawing. Each student presented their house and some information about themselves to the whole class to practice public speaking. I was impressed by their vivid descriptions of beautifully designed homes, complete with flower vases, colorful roofs, and tree-filled yards. During the first lesson of the adult class, I asked students to tell me about their childhoods and was confronted with an urgent question from a young man in the back of the room, who later described himself as a poet: "I can tell you about my childhood, but what are your hopes and dreams, Miss?" I quickly learned that while one's childhood is certainly of importance, Al Aqaba's youth are more preoccupied with shaping their futures and realizing their dreams. After mastering the basics of the past preterit, imperfect, and past progressives tenses, we eagerly jumped into the future, subjunctive, and conditional tenses. We worked on detailed letters to American penpals at UCSC in California that describe the conditions of living under occupation as well as the hopes and dreams of each young man in the class. We drafted high quality English resumes in anticipation of those futures, delved into topics of refugeeness, longing, and land ownership, recited a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, and were lucky to have 2 American guests visit for a day of intensive conversational English practice. I had so much fun teaching English and learning Arabic from these intelligent, motivated young people. My biggest challenge with the students was the fact that as the summer progressed, my classes kept getting bigger and bigger, and it seemed I never had enough copies of handouts! We faced other challenges, as well, however: our conversations in class were often interrupted by the deafening sound of jets flying overhead the Israeli military training camp next door. My very first day in the village, an Israeli administrator arrived to photograph the newly re-paved road that had been demolished in May (the village mayor, Haj Sami, was visibly anxious about the potential for a second demolition). I was aware that at any moment the school, under demolition order like most of the buildings in the village, might be bulldozed: this reality naturally generated a sense of anxiety about the future. I was impressed by how defiantly students did not allow this to interfere with their English learning, their sense of humor, or their insistence on mastering the future tense both linguistically and in their lives. Inshalla, I will be back next summer to teach English and continue my fieldwork as an Anthropologist in Al Aqaba.
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