The birds return

As we wrote in a previous blog post, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941 – 2008) – like all Palestinians, and those living in the Gaza Strip in particular – knew all about the personal and collective suffering that comes with not having full control over one’s own freedom of movement, with losing one’s (home)land and with being besieged, controlled and coerced day in, day out.

During the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020, the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (UNECO-RILA) based at the University of Glasgow – of which the Online Palestinian Arabic Course (OPAC) was part – organised an online version of their annual Spring School. Following that, a virtual Refugee Cycle took the place of the Refugee Cycle UNESCO-RILA organises every year. Despite having moved on to other projects, some of the OPAC team members have found the time to come together to make a short Arabic Language taster video, so that it could be used both for the virtual Spring School and the virtual Refugee Cycle. We based the short lesson on the idea of birds that Darwish talked about in his poem “The Earth is Closing on Us“.

The birds in our video speak to everyone’s need and wish to escape any cages by which they may be trapped, including our Palestinian friends and partners in the Gaza Strip, who have been virtually imprisoned by a blockade for well over a decade. We offer this short taster to all you now, so you can learn a few words of Palestinian Arabic and play around with the wings that knowing a new language has the potential to give you.

A Palestinian Arabic language taster

Our friends and colleagues in Gaza can help you learn more, if you liked our taster: just click here!

Collaborating online at times of crisis

As we write this we are in the middle of a pandemic that has huge numbers of people around the world grappling with uncertainty, disruption and anxiety. The spreading of the COVID-19 virus means that millions of people are having to self-isolate or are in lockdown in many countries. It is a difficult and troubling time for everyone, everywhere, and one the world is struggling to cope with.

As academics we are privileged in that much of the work we do can also be done through the use of online technology. This is something that is not an option for many people, and livelihoods are at stake. However, for those of us able to work online, there is now a wide range of tools available and, while online work requires a different set of skills and strategies from those needed for face-to-face teaching or researching, there is still a lot we can do to keep going.

Our friends and colleagues in the Gaza Strip know all too well what it feels like to be ‘locked away’, to have your movement and social interactions curtailed, as a nation and as individuals. They have, for many years, invested in online technologies as a means to escape isolation and to carry on functioning and interacting despite living in a prolonged state of crisis and precarity.

The Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) has established a large number of international online collaborations over the past few years, collaborations which span most subjects, and which make use of several languages. Through these partnerships, IUG has been able to share knowledge and skills with international partners, and these benefit academics, students and the whole of Gazan society. A range of these collaborations are the subject of the forthcoming book “Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance. Crossing Impassable Borders”, published by Multilingual Matters. Below is a shot of the book’s cover, with a photograph of a very Scottish-looking Palestinian seascape (or is it a Palestinan-looking Scottish seascape? What do you think? 🙂

Front cover

There is a lot that Gaza’s academics can teach us about lateral thinking, problem-solving, resilience and online working in challenging situations, and this new book illustrates and discusses some of the ways in which this is done. To pre-order a copy of our book, click here

Hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic will pass soon, and we will all be able to go back to our normal face-to-face learning, researching and teaching. What we are learning now about online collaboration, however, will stay with us and hopefully make us more flexible and creative. We sincerely hope that freedom from isolation will also soon be true for our friends in the Gaza Strip, that borders will be open and that meeting and working online can become a choice for all, rather than a necessity.

Be well, everyone!

Happy Arabic Language every day!!

Yesterday was Arabic Language Day, and people around the world celebrated this beautiful language.

Last year we put together a little video to celebrate the Arabic language and to remind people that the Islamic University of Gaza has a range of Arabic language courses for all levels that can be taught online by trained teachers (and wonderful human beings) based at IUG’s Arabic Center. The courses available include the Online Arabic from Palestine course, which we designed specifically for beginner learners who want to learn Arabic with a Palestinian flavour.

Below is our Arabic language day video again for you to enjoy

We wish you Happy Arabic language every day!!