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How NOT to Learn Hebrew

Office Admin : 28/04/2011 16:30 : Israel news

There’s a trap which many new immigrants (olim hadashim – חדשים עולים in Hebrew) or semi-permanent residents fall into when they come to Israel, and it can be a deadly. It is to get stuck in their ex-pat community and thereby fail to learn Hebrew.

This is a big problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is not going to help your chances of employment if you don’t learn to speak Hebrew. Is it possible to get by? Yes, but after a while, getting by is not sufficient. You will want to move on, move up — and to do that you’ll really have to learn Hebrew.

Secondly, you’ll be a permanent tourist. If you live in a country where you can’t speak the language you’ll be forever patronized by the natives, ripped off by taxi drivers and will wonder around your neighborhood, town, city, and country of residence with a permanently bewildered and bemused look on your face.

Thirdly, if you learn Hebrew then you’ll actually be able to speak to real live Israelis, interact with your fellow countrymen, understand what they like, don’t like, want for their country (which is also your country) and for their lives. At the end of the day, if you can’t communicate with your fellow citizens, then you’re going to feel very isolated from events around you. That might be OK in some countries, but in Israel the issues and dilemmas facing the country mean that you’ll feel very left out of the public debate if you can’t understand what people are saying about the different issues.

So how can you really get a better Hebrew education? Well, come to Ulpan-Or of course — we’ll teach Hebrew to you in a way you’ve never experienced. We immerse our students in all forms of language, and we’ll have you reading the newspaper, listening to pop-music watching fun Israeli TV ads, speaking in coffee shops and doing a whole variety of other activities designed to get your Hebrew-language skills up to scratch.

Then there are the things you can do by yourself. Read a couple of articles in a Hebrew newspaper every day. Listen to the Israeli radio stations (do not, under any circumstances, listen to radio stations from your home country via the internet!) and watch Israeli television. This is actually a great way of learning the language, especially if there’s a show or movie on which has subtitles in Hebrew. You can listen and read the Hebrew at the same time, which makes it easier to identify the roots of the words being spoken and therefore allowing you to understand their general meaning even if you’re not sure of the exact form.

Getting a job in a Hebrew speaking environment is the definitely the best way to get to grips with the language as it will mean essentially throwing yourself in at the deep end. Daunting? Yes. Worthwhile? Most definitely!

These are just some of Ulpan-Or’s top Hebrew learning tips. And of course, if you’re the planning type then sign up for one of our online courses and get a great head start before you even arrive!

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A Hebrew Message From a Japanese Student

Office Admin : 27/04/2011 16:30 : Israel news

learn hebrew[Note from Ulpan-Or: One of the pleasures of teaching Hebrew is that we have the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world — including Yoko Onishi from Japan. She has studied with us for quite some time, and we wanted to share some of her experiences — from the earthquake to her Hebrew studies — with our readers. Her untouched Hebrew is below, and then we have provided an English translation afterward. We are so proud that Yoko has learned so much!]

שלום ,שמי יוקו אונישי. אני נוצריה יפנית וגרה בסאפורו שבאי הוקאידו בצפון ביפאן. כמה חודשים אחרי שהתחלתי לקרא בתנ”ך למדתי שיש משמעות מייוחדת לכל שמות האנשים שמופיעים בו. “יהודה”-‘הפעם אודה את יהוה’. “יוסף”-‘יוסף יהוה לי בן אחר’. התחלתי להתעניין יותר ויותר בשפה העברית.

היתה לי הזדמנות לבקר בישראל ובירדן ב1996 עם עשרים אנשים נוצרים בטיול של שבועים. התרגשתי מאוד לראת הרבה מקומות שקראתי עליהם בתנ”ך. חשבתי ללמוד עברית. שישה חדשים אחרי שחזרתי ליפן, ראיתי פרסומת בעיתון שבו היה כתוב “עברית מודרנית ומקראית”. המורה בכיתה היה יפני שלמד באוניברסיטה עברית בירושלים, ואני הבנתי את החומר הדקדוקי טוב מאוד בכתה שלו.

ב2009 למדתי עברית באולפן אור תל אביב בפעם הראשונה וחשבתי שהשיעור הפרטי מאוד אפקטיבי, ולא היה רגע אחד מבוזבז. לפני יציאתי לטיול אולפן הייתי חייבת ללמוד אודות אתרים היסטורים בהם אבקר מהחוברת הלימוד שברשותי. הייתי צרכה להסביר על המקומות למדריך.

כעבור שנה חזרתי ללמוד באולפן אור ושמחתי מאוד ללמוד עם ספר הלימוד רמה “דלת”. השנה חשבתי ללמוד בפעם נוספת באולפן אור וקניתי כרטיס טיסה זול לישראל באמצע בפברואר. לא ניתן היה לשנות את תאריך הטיסה. ב24 במרס אסע לישראל.

ב-11 במרס התרחשה רעידת אדמה 9.0 בסולם ריכטר. ובעיקבותה פגע צונאמי בחופה המזרחי של יפן, למחרת התקבלה הודע על תקלה חמורה ופיצוץ בתחנת הכוח הגרעיני בפוקושימה. בכיתי כל פעם כשקראתי את הכתבות בעיתון. יותר מ20,000 אנשים מתו או נעדרו. הססתי אם כדאי לי לנסוע לישראל. בעלי היה צריך לעבור בדיקה לאיבחון בסרטן בשלפוחית השתן. בעבר הוא עבר שלושה ניתוחים. הרופא של בעלי חלה במשך חודש פברואר והבדיקה התאחרה בחודש. ליבי רמז לי ש הכל יהיה בסדר ואכן הסרטן לא חזר לו. אפשר לנסוע לישראל!!

באולפן אור למדתי אודות “תיבת נח” מן התנ”ך. החוברת הייתה ערוכה בעברית מודדרנית והסיפור ריגש אותי מאוד כי באתי מיפן ב”מבול”קרינה. ביפן לא צריך להשתמש בתחנת הכוח הגרעיני. ניתן להשתמש באנרגיה מהשמש או מים. אני חושבת שזה “עונש משמיים”. אני מקווה שיבוא היום שבו אפשר יהיה לראת את היונה ובפיה עלה זית.

Hello, my name is Yoko Onishi. I am a Christian and I live in Sapporo, in the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.

A few months after I started to read the Bible I learned that there is meaning to all of the names listed in the Bible. “Judas” — “Now will I praise the Lord. “Joseph” -– The Lord will give to me another son. I became interested more and more in the Hebrew language.

I had the opportunity to visit Israel and Jordan in 1996 with twenty Christian people on a trip of two weeks. I was very excited to view lots of places I had read about in the Bible. I thought to learn Hebrew. Six months after returning to Japan, I saw a newspaper advertisement that said “Modern and Biblical Hebrew.” The teacher in the class was Japanese and had studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and I understood the grammar and material very well in his class.

In 2009 I first learned Hebrew at Ulpan-Or in Tel Aviv and I thought the private lessons were very effective; there was not a moment that was wasted. Before I left Ulpan-Or I traveled to historical places that I studied about in my class materials. I had to explain these places to my teacher.

A year later I returned to study at Ulpan-Or and was very glad to study with the textbook level “Daled.” This year I decided again to go to Israel to study at Ulpan-Or and I bought a cheap airline ticket to Israel in the middle of February. It was not possible to change the flight date. On March 24 I was scheduled to go to Israel.

On March 11 an earthquake occurred, 9.0 on the Richter scale and because of it a tsunami hit the eastern coast of Japan. The next day we received information about the disaster and explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. I cried every time I read the newspaper articles. More than 20,000 people died or were missing. I was not sure if I should go to Israel. My husband had to go through testing to diagnose bladder cancer. Previously, he underwent three operations. My husband’s doctor got sick in the month of February and testing was delayed a month. My heart hinted to me that everything will be fine and indeed the cancer had not returned to him. You can go to Israel!

In Ulpan-Or I learned about “Noah’s Ark” from the Bible. The booklet was prepared in modern Hebrew and the story moved me very much because I came from Japan – a radiation storm. In Japan we should not use nuclear power station. You can use the energy from the sun or water. I think it’s “punishment from heaven.” I hope the day will come when it will be possible to view the dove carrying an olive branch in his mouth.

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Israeli Success at the Tribeca Film Festival

Office Admin : 22/04/2011 16:40 : Israel news

As we’ve already mentioned and blogged, the Israeli film industry keeps on going from strength to strength. And now, once again, Israeli film-makers have something to shout about. The annual Tribeca Film Festival, founded by Robert De Niro ten years ago, will feature this year the first Israeli horror film as well as a documentary filmed by an Israeli director. The festival started on April 20 and runs till May 1.

The first film is Rabies (kalevet – כלבת in spoken Hebrew), directed and written by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, and is Israel’s first home-grown slasher-horror movie. Not being a huge slasher-horror fan myself because of a squeamish constituency and a tendency to jump at the most obvious of the scary-movie tactics (phone ringing very suddenly and loudly in the foreground, a hand grabbing the protagonist from behind as the camera follows her, and so one), we’re not really going to dwell on that one too much.

Suffice it to say, “Rabies” contains a great deal of the traditional slasher staples — young people running around, screaming, blood, guts and general gore.

The second film, though, is a beautifully-shot documentary by Israeli film-director Alma Harel about a fascinating community in California. “Bombay Beach” is a film about the Bombay Beach community located on the Salton Sea, a large inland lake (agam – אגם in spoken Hebrew) in the Colorado Desert in southern California. Salton Sea saw an incredible spurt of development in the 1950s and early 1960s, with the Hollywood jet-set flocking to what was dubbed “Palm Springs-by-the-Sea,” complete with restaurants, shops, nightclubs and all the trappings of a resort town, which developed into Bombay Beach. But adverse environmental factors destroyed the appeal of the resort and today the community has become a ghostly shanty town of mouldering ruins and dreams in which impoverished residents still try to eke out an existence.

Bombay Beach follows the lives of three of these residents (toshavim – תושבים in spoken Hebrew), a bipolar young boy, an aspiring teenage football player and an elderly relic still living in the town, and in so doing plots the harsh realities of the American Dream. It’s a truly thought-provoking film and one that Israelis can be proud was made by one of their countrymen (actually countrywomen, but that just sounds odd).

If you get the opportunity to see it then go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

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Hebrew to Star in New R &B Album

Office Admin : 18/04/2011 16:30 : Israel news

The Hebrew language has gotten a new fan. India.Arie*, an American R &B and Soul singer-songwriter is teaming up with Israeli musician Idan Raichel for her fifth album “Open Door.” India.Arie has frequently collaborated with artists from around the world and her new album with Raichel will include songs in both Hebrew and English.

India.Arie doesn’t actually speak Hebrew but says that Raichel translated the Hebrew lyrics she sings in the album for her.

Idan Raichel is a veritable Israeli superstar. The singer-songwriter and musician came to prominence on the Israeli music scene with the album “The Idan Raichel Project” in 2002. Raichel approached 70 musicians to join with him in recording the album, and the intoxicating mix of ethnic tunes and rhythms from Arabia and Africa, Israel, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Latin America, became an instant hit.

India.Arie and Raichel have already worked together, singing together at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo this past December and playing at concerts in Los Angeles and Atlanta.

One of the most exciting events at which the two artists performed was at a concert in Washington on Martin Luther King Day in January 2010, at which U.S. President Barak Obama was present. They performed the beautiful and haunting song Mei Nahar (נהר מי), meaning Waters of the River in the Hebrew language which received a standing ovation from the President. Comparing allegorically the flowing waters of a river to the days of a person’s life, the song continues with the theme of water, comparing the narrator’s thirst for water with her thirst to be with the one she loves.

These are the days of your life
The waters of your life
Washed in the current
That begins with the first rain…

…Even if I drink the entire ocean
It will not quench my thirst
For another day close to you
For another day in your arms

If, like India.Arie, you’re interested in learning some of the basics of the Hebrew language when you next visit Israel, you can stop by Ulpan-Or and we’ll be happy to give you a crash course.

*It’s unclear what the period is for, if you know please write in and tell us!

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A Royal Ketubah

Office Admin : 14/04/2011 16:30 : Israel news

As Royal Wedding Fever grips the United Kingdom ahead of the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton, it seems that even Israel is not immune to the growing glamor of the royal couple.

A British-born artist and calligrapher living in Jerusalem, Michael Horton, has made a traditional Jewish marriage-certificate for the young couple, and it is written in both Hebrew as well as English.

The royal ketubah (כתובה – Hebrew for marriage certificate) bears many of the same features that appear on regular ketubot (plural of ketubah) but was also specially adapted for William and Kate. The text was altered somewhat to make it appropriate for a church wedding and removed some of the more specifically Jewish legal terms of the marriage agreement.

However, it is has been stylized in the traditional Jewish format with the Ten Commandments featuring at the top of the ketubah held by the (traditional) Lion of Judah symbol on the right-hand side, and a lion from Prince William’s coat of arms (less traditional for Jewish ketubot) on the left.

The Hebrew writing has been done, as is traditional, in the elegant calligraphy that is used for writing other sacred Jewish texts, such as the Torah scroll; the mezuzah, which is placed in a case and affixed to door posts; and other such items.

The Ketubah also features King Solomon’s Temple and King David playing the harp as well as an image of Westminster Abbey in London where William and Kate will be married.

Having spent 40 years producing ketubot and other similar artwork, a friend suggested to Horton that he make one for the upcoming royal wedding.

The ketubah, which took eight days to complete, was presented to the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who has sent it to William and Kate ahead of their wedding.

Everyone here at Ulpan-Or wishes William and Kate a hearty Mazal Tov!


Bob Geldof is Coming to Israel

Office Admin : 10/04/2011 16:00 : Israel news

Irish singer, songwriter and humanitarian activist Bob Geldof is coming to Israel next month to receive an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva. The doctorate will be awarded on May 30 to honor Geldof’s musical career and activism on behalf of victims of famine and disease in the developing world, especially in Africa.

Geldof is perhaps most famous for his participation in the Band Aid and Live Aid concerts in London in 1984 and 1985 which were designed to raise money to alleviate the famine (ra’av רעב in Hebrew) in Ethiopia that was taking place at the time.

Geldof has continued to campaign for aid and development (hitpatchut – התפתחות in Hebrew) in Africa ever since and will be attending a conference being in Herzliya in May called “Israel in Africa – Past, Present and Future,” which is being organized by IsraAid. IsraAid is an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) which acts as a coordinating body for Jewish and Israeli organizations that carry out development and relief work in the developing world.

Founded in 2001, IsraAid comprises 35 Jewish and Israeli aid NGOs and has helped these organizations coordinate humanitarian activity in Haiti, South Africa, Sudan, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, among many other countries.

IsraAid says that it models itself on the Jewish principle of tikun olam, which in Hebrew means “fixing the world.” The concept was originally developed by the rabbis of the Talmudic era and has in modern times been interpreted as a Jewish call to action to help alleviate suffering around the world.

Bob Geldof has certainly fulfilled this principle in his lifetime, as has IsraAid. Both of them have contributed incalculably to righting the world’s wrongs and, hopefully, Geldof’s attendance at the conference will lead to new ideas and initiatives to solve the complex problems of today’s world.

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Herbal Krembo, Anyone?

Office Admin : 28/03/2011 17:00 : Israel news

Without doubt, the culinary trends of recent years are those of ever-more weird combinations of food along with increasingly wacky and bizarre ingredients that most people, until now, would not have even considered to be food.

For example, take British chef Heston Blumenthal and his restaurant, the Fat Duck (it sounds great in Hebrew, Barvaz (duck) Hashamen (The Fat) – ברווז השמן). Named the best restaurant in the world in 2005, the Fat Duck delights in serving such delicacies as mustard ice-cream and snail porridge!

More recently, there’s the Danish restaurant Noma, current holder of the Best Restaurant in the World title. In 2003, chef Rene Redzepi decided that he wanted to put Scandinavian cuisine on the map and, as such, vowed only to use ingredients from the region. This left him rather short on many more traditional foods, olive oil, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and so forth, so instead he serves pickled roses, beach cabbage, and scurvy grass (weeds to you and me).

But now, here in Israel, we’ve got the Shakuf restaurant in Jaffa (Shakuf – שקוף in Hebrew means clear or transparent, all though it’s not immediately apparent if the name has any bearing on the restaurant). Chef Elad Shem Tov is avowedly seasonal, so, for instance, he won’t have anything to do with tomatoes and cucumbers during the winter but will concentrate on root vegetables such as candy-striped beets instead. Fancy some beet ice-cream? Or maybe a herbal Krembo? All this and more is on the menu at Shakuf’s.

To some, it could seem like Shakuf is simply jumping on the weird-food bandwagon, but it might, nevertheless, turn out to be a positive development. While there are some really outstanding restaurants in Israel these days, most Israeli food is not uniquely Israeli. Jews from Russia, Poland, and Germany imported traditional Eastern Europe fare, and the Jews who came to Israel from North Africa and the Middle East brought over the food they had cooked and grown up with.

There’s not too much we can say is authentically Israeli. Krembo, for sure, is a pretty good addition to world cuisine, and these miniature bombs of marshmallow in their chocolate shells are certainly an important gastronomic development (they are also very seasonal — they are sold only during the winter, which is presumably why they’re on Shakuf’s menu at the moment).

Other than Krembo’s, though, there’s not too much to shout about, so perhaps we should all be brainstorming for ways to put Israeli cuisine on the map? If you can have mustard ice-cream in Britain, then why not hummus fondue in Israel? If eating Danish weeds is alright, then how about a nice fresh salad of anise shoots and cyclamen petals (both native to Israel)?

So, get thinking! All culinary suggestions are welcome, and if you want to learn the Hebrew words for all the wacky recipes you come up with, Ulpan-Or will be happy to indulge your taste for the language, no matter what you throw at us (no rotten tomatoes, though — they’re not in season!)

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