Monday, March 19, 2007

A few words about Israel, Part One

Here are some fun facts about Israel you will not get from my article, should you choose to read it. (I'll probably end up posting it here on Friday.)

-Israeli kids are taught English in elementary school. My group visited a school in a northern city called Tsfat. No Hebrew is allowed in English class. Telly would get along with Israeli kids, becuase they love MTV. They were proud to show off their language skills through the medium of song. These sixth graders sang, of all things, "Underneath Your Clothes" by Shakira. They also busted out with some Kelly Clarkson ("Because of You").

Israeli schools are rife with budget problems, leading to larger class sizes. The class we visited was packed with about 40 students. Not the best behaved bunch , but who could blame them? During Israel's war with Hezbollah over the summer, their town was hit by hundreds of rockets, and many of them had to flee with their families. The principal, who has the unlikely handle of Chaim Zinger, carries a handgun to protect students from outside threats.

-I landed in Israel on a Friday, a day when observant Jews around the world leave work early to prepare for Shabbat, which lasts thru sundown on Saturday night. Orthodox Jews use no electricity and walk to synagogue on the Sabbath; to accomodate them the Israeli work week is Sunday-Thursday. On the opposite end of this spectrum are secular Jews. They don't observe the Sabbath, and are more nationalistic than religious. There are no "Conservative" or "Reform" Jews in Israel, only Orthodox and secular Jews. As you might imagine the gap between them goes from here to the rearview mirror (Points if you get that reference). In other words, they don't get along.

Anyway, I was surprised to find out that nightclubs are open on Shabbat. The place we went to in Jerusalem that Friday was packed with heathen drinkers. Israelis have interesting taste in music. In the nightclubs/bars I visited I heard a combination of house music (no surprise there) and questionable Western pop from 10-20 years ago, i.e. "Breakfast at Tiffany's", "5,000 Miles," and "Eye of the Tiger."

That didn't stop people from getting down..

...Expect a link to my article to appear on this site sometime over the weekend...I may have some more of my awesomely keen insights to share by then...