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Strangers No More

Office Admin : 25/03/2011 17:00 : Israel news

This year at the Academy Awards, “Strangers No More,” an exceptional documentary whose central narrative revolves around the Hebrew language, won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary this year.

Strangers No More is an incredibly-moving film about children from 48 different countries who have found political-asylum in Israel and now attend the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv.

In recent years, Israel has become a primary destination for many refugees, especially those from Africa, who have fled from violence and persecution in their own countries. The refugees come from some of the most war-torn nations in the world including Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea and then cross into Israel from Egypt.

In “Strangers No More,” children who have escaped these countries tell truly heart-rending stories of the violence they experienced in their homeland and how the Bialik-Rogozin School has helped them gain an education many of them could never have imagined.

The Hebrew language is at the heart of this story. The children, having arrived from such a diverse set of countries, naturally could not communicate with each other or with their teachers. But out of necessity, they soon picked up the language, which helped them forge a bond between each other, the school, and their adopted country, Israel.

The film focuses on three of the students: Johannes from Ethiopia, Esther from South Africa, and Muhammad from the Darfur region of Sudan. Their accounts of the suffering they experienced in their home countries are appalling, but the manner in which they were so lovingly educated by the staff of the Bialik-Rogozin School is uplifting.

And having learned Hebrew, they are now eager to integrate into Israeli society, get jobs, and build new lives for themselves here.

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“Reverse Osmosis” and “Solar Energy” in Hebrew

Office Admin : 22/03/2011 17:00 : Israel news

In keeping with the theme of a prior post about new Hebrew words in the field of environmentalism and general greenery, Israel’s clean-tech prowess recently received a strong commendation — so we thought we’d highlight it here.

In a visit to Israel in late February, former New York Gov. George Pataki applauded Israel for “taking a long term look at innovation and growing its economy.” High praise indeed, and it’s true — Israel does have a blossoming clean-tech sector. This is important for the environment, the Israeli economy, and as a source of some new and funky Hebrew words (as well as lame transliterations).

For a start, there’s Israel’s water-desalination program (מים התפלת – hatpalat mayim). Israel, chronically short of fresh water, has constructed some of the most-advanced desalination plants on the planet. Last summer, the largest reverse-osmosis (הפוכה אוסמוזה – osmuza hafucha – yes, osmosis has just been badly transliterated) facility in the world went online in the Israeli coastal-city of Hadera, and Israeli production of desalinated water is projected to account for nearly all household water-consumption by 2013.

The counterbalance to Israel’s worrying dearth of water is its rather-large surfeit of sunshine (some think the two might be related). Seeking to make use of the natural resources, Israeli firms have led the way in pioneering solar-technology. The Israeli-firm Solel (ok, it was recently bought out by Siemens, but Israel still gets the credit!) is building what will be the largest solar-power plant in the world in the Mojave Desert in California. The facility will produce a whopping 553 megawatts of electricity (we’re told that’s a lot). Disappointingly, solar power in Hebrew has been rather unimaginatively transliterated, so it’s basically סולארית אנרגיה energiah sularit, or if you don’t mind being a bit long-winded השמש בקרינת שמקורה אנרגיה (energiah she’mekorah b’krinat hashemesh). However, if you use that expression with actual Israelis, they will likely ask you with a puzzled look on their face, “You mean enegriah sularit?”

Such are the perils of trying too hard. Luckily, Ulpan-Or is here to help you out with these kinds of Hebrew-language pitfalls.

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Hebrew Education, Neologism, and a Revived Language

Office Admin : 10/03/2011 09:40 : Israel news

hebrew educationContinuing with our theme of the formation of new Hebrew words in Hebrew education, we thought we’d highlight the publication of a fascinating new book about Israeli poet and neologist Yonatan Ratosh and discuss how Hebrew’s lexicon has broadened throughout the centuries.

The Hebrew education taught and learned in schools today is very much an amalgam of different historical forms of the language: ancient Hebrew such as that used to write the Torah, Mishnaic Hebrew used by rabbinic scholars two thousand years ago, medieval Hebrew that was developed by the famous rabbis of the Middle Ages such as Maimonides (Rambam), and obviously the innovations of modern Hebrew.

The modern neologist revival began in the lat- nineteenth century as a result of Hebrew education’s transformation from a written language to a spoken one as well as the consequent requirement to update the language for modern usage. One of the innovators in this respect was Haim Nachman Bialik, a Jewish poet from Russia who grew up in what is now the Ukraine and who coined many new words for the modern era through his prolific output of poetry and literature.

Avraham Shlonsky, another Russian poet from the Ukraine, was also one of the great Hebrew-education neologists who created many new words for the re-born Hebrew language through his childrens’ books and Hebrew translations of Russian classics. Shlonsky’s work was so astute and incisive that he earned the nickname Lashonsky, a pun on his name and the word for language in Hebrew, lashon – לשון.

And then, later, there was Yonatan Ratosh. Ratosh was first and foremost an ideologue, committed to the Canaanite movement. Canaanism was an ideological movement in pre-state Israel that began in the late 1930s and early ’40s, rejected Jewish nationalism and viewed Judaism only as a religion, and advocated a new Hebrew nation rather than a Jewish one. Ratosh was one of the founders of Canaanism, and because of this ideological embrace of Hebrew education and an abhorrence for using foreign words in modern-Hebrew education, he coined thousands of new words for the developing language.

Undoubtedly, modern Hebrew education owes a great debt to linguistic pioneers such as Bialik, Shlonksy, and Ratosh. As we pointed out in our previous post, Hebrew, like other languages, is a living, breathing entity that continues to develop and expand.

We here at Ulpan-Or love our reborn national language, and we know you’ll love our Hebrew education too. So come along, contact us for more information, and benefit from the Hebrew neologists.

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If we knew you were coming…we would have sent along some YouTube clips to help improve your Hebrew!

Office Admin : 03/03/2011 13:30 : Israel news

While there is really no substitute for intensive Hebrew study, there are several exercises anyone can do to familiarize themselves with the language, brush up on their vocab, and just get used to hearing Hebrew being spoken. YouTube is a gold mine of Hebrew language clips; search for Rechov Sumsum (רחוב סומסום) for the Israeli version of Sesame Street. Aimed at children, the show (and its YouTube segments) often feature musical numbers and a slower pace ideal for beginners, as oppose to Israeli news or adult programs which may require greater aptitude. Here is a sample, featuring a Hebrew rendition of “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake”. The familiar tune will not be all you recognize; “Arik” and “Ugifletzet” (Ugi) are Ernie and Cookie Monster’s identical Israeli cousins!

Check our list of basic words below and see how many you can catch in the video!

Vocabulary:

אני/Ani – I
איפה /Effo – Where
כן/Ken – Yes
מתוק/Metuka – Sweet
שלום/Shalom – Hello
שם/Sham – There
שלי/Sheli – My (i.e. “My cake”)
טלפון/Telephone – Telephone
היום/Yom – Day
עוגה/Ugia – Cake

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Hebrew Word for “Compost” Required – All Suggestions Welcome

Office Admin : 01/03/2011 14:30 : Israel news

The Hebrew language is at once both extremely old and very new. Ancient Hebrew dates back thousands of years as the language used to write the Bible, spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

But Hebrew became extinct as a spoken language during the two-thousand year long exile of the Jewish people from their homeland. It took the phenomenon of Zionism and Eliezer Ben-Yehudah to put a change to all that.

Ben-Yehudah, a Zionist from Russia who settled in Jerusalem in 1881, ardently believed that reviving Hebrew as the national language was a critical step in re-establishing a sovereign Jewish state. He toiled for years compiling his “Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew,” in which he synthesised Ancient, Talmudic and Medieval Hebrew while coining thousands of new words not present in earlier forms of the language.

The only problem is, he died nearly 90 years ago and there are a few modern concepts and inventions that he wasn’t around to translate into Hebrew. Television for example, Internet, sushi, recycling, global warming and Justin Bieber are all concepts and phenomenons of which Ben-Yehudah was unaware (not necessarily to his misfortune).

Step in the Academy of the Hebrew Language, founded in 1953, whose job it is to create new words to keep Hebrew up-to-date with the modern world. Now, anyone who’s been to Israel and tried to learn a bit of Hebrew knows that a lot of these new concepts and modern inventions are just transliterated from English. Radio is raa-dio, cornflakes are corrrrnfleks (a synonym for all breakfast cereal as well), Internet is Interrrnet and so on. Often, these are the hardest words to actually read in Hebrew since they’re so unfamiliar. Many are the new immigrants who squint and mutter under their breath, syllable by syllable “what is that?…su-perre-mar-qet…oh supermarket!”

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t at least try to make up our own words. Right now the Hebrew Language Academy is looking for all words compost related. So at the very least, there’s a noun and a verb up for grabs and possibly a present participle/gerund too. So get thinking and mint the new Hebrew word for compost; you’ll be one step closer to learning the language. Ulpan-Or will help you with the rest.

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Stick a Virtual Note in the Western Wall via your iPhone

Office Admin : 27/02/2011 14:45 : Israel news

We all know at least one person who doesn’t stop twittering on about how amazing their iPhone (אייפון – iPhone – Israelis are nothing if not innovative!) is. In fact, many of us are guilty of this modern crime ourselves and the phrase “my iPhone app can do that” has become a nauseatingly annoying refrain of our time.

But now, in addition to the everyday pursuits of your life that iPhone apps can assist , there’s an app that will help elevate your soul (נפשnefesh) and let you reach new spiritual heights. Yes, you can now post a prayer-note in the Western Wall (המערבי הכותלHaKotel ha’ma’Aravi) from anywhere on earth.

For thousands of years, Jews have travelled to Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall, one of the last remaining remnants of the Second Temple (המקדש בית Beit ha’Mikdash), which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Having arrived at the Western Wall, Jews write their most heartfelt prayers (תפילותtephilot) and desires on a note and insert it into one of the numerous nooks and crannies in the Wall .

The only problem is you have to be in Jerusalem in the first place. But, now thanks to the iPhone and the people at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, you can send an email with your prayer, which will be printed off and placed in the Wall. Instant Karma, as they say.

You can also see live streaming video footage of the Western Wall and find out which direction Jerusalem is, in order to align yourself with the city to start your prayers.

The app is in ongoing development with an eye on the future, when the Temple will be rebuilt. An app for slaughtering animal sacrifices (קורבנותkorbanot) should be operational by then, although it will only function with the iPhone 5000 which has a really sharp edge!

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Dogs Learn Hebrew

Office Admin : 25/02/2011 12:24 : Israel news

Running a marathon is no easy feat. Running it in 3hrs 44mins is pretty good going. Doing so when you’ve lost your sight is amazing, but that’s what Israeli runner, Gadi Yarkoni succeeded in doing.

Fifteen years ago, Gadi was serving in the Israeli army in Lebanon when he was wounded in battle and lost his eyesight. Following the incident, Gadi knew he had to regain his freedom and that the only way of doing so was by getting a guide dog. Since then, Gadi has had 3 guide dogs including his current companion, Timmy, a gorgeous black Labrador.

Gadi was paired up with Timmy through the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, the first such center in Israel to train dogs in Hebrew. Until then, the only option for Israelis who were blind or visually impaired was to go the U.S. for instruction with an English-speaking canine. For anyone who couldn’t speak English however, this was not an option.

The Israel guide-dog center opened in 1991 and has trained 400 dogs in Hebrew. The training period for the dog is long, rigorous and very expensive, costing $25,000 per dog and taking two years to complete.

Out of 27,000 registered blind people in Israel, only 250 have guide dogs, although the number is steadily increasing. For Gadi, it has changed his life completely and allowed him to regain the freedom he lost along with his eyesight, enabling him to do things like running a 26 mile marathon to raise money for the guide-dog center.

Running alongside Gadi in the New York marathon was Noach Braun, the founder of the Israeli Guide Center who works at the center with his wife Orna. Gadi and Noach were actually tethered together as they ran the grueling course.

The guide-dog center has had some high profile support in the past with the prominent British politician and former minister David Blunkett paying a visit in 2007. Blunkett is himself blind and is always accompanied by his own guide dog. Despite his disability, Blunkett rose to high office and was appointed Home Secretary by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Another high profile supporter of the center was the former British Ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, who left his post this year. Both Philips and his wife helped train puppies for the center during their time in Israel.

Clearly, Ulpan-Or and the Israeli guide-dog center have something in common: teaching Hebrew. It should be noted though that at Ulpan-Or you’ll rarely be told to “fetch” or “sit”. If you’re lucky though we may give you a pat on the head and you might even find a “biscuit” or two coming your way by rapidly gaining fluency in the Hebrew language.

The other major difference, besides the number of legs of the two different types of students, is that at Ulpan-Or, learning Hebrew is a much faster process than at the guide-dog center. This is attributable to Ulpan-Or’s unique formula for acquiring the language quickly and the somewhat greater IQ of most of our students!

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