The sun was shining in the Gaza Strip, yesterday morning, when the Online Arabic from Palestine language course for beginners was launched officially at the Islamic University of Gaza. The weather was much less kind to the Glasgow launch, yesterday afternoon, when people had to brave the Ali storm to come and celebrate the official release of the new course.
As so many times before during the many months of collaboration that led to yesterday’s launch, the Glasgow team was in Gaza, speaking from a screen to a room full of proud people, while our Gaza colleagues were later a presence on a screen in Glasgow, telling about their experiences and roles in the design and development of the Online Arabic from Palestine course. As so many times before, we documented the events, sharing the dizzying kaleidoscope of photographs of people on screens and in person in each other’s rooms from each other’s points of view…
But sometimes miracles happen, and people manage to escape the confines of screens and meet in real life. Sahar, our IUG colleague (who is Sara in the course’s videos) arrived in the UK just a few days ago to study. Despite having a million things to do and having to recover from her long journey, she was willing – actually, delighted – to travel again to be with us, on this side of the screen, in the room she knew so well from all our Skype meetings over the years (“It’s much bigger than I thought!” was her first comment).
So our colleague and friend Sahar was with us outside the screen, decorating with leaves the table for the post-launch celebrations, gifting Palestinian embroidery bracelets, slicing pomegranates, taking people through the course at the launch event, and being enthusiastic about everything (despite Ali!). And showing everyone that screens can be portals, through which flesh and blood connections can be made.
Two weeks before the official launch of the Online Arabic from Palestine course, we are talking about it in Bolzano (Italy), at the annual European Conference on Educational Research run by the European Educational Research Association. Bolzano is in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by the Alps and by vineyards. This is the sun as it rose this morning behind the mountains:
More than 3,000 people will come from around the world to exchange ideas on many aspects of education, around the main theme of “inclusion and exclusion”. Due to the ongoing blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, people living in Gaza are excluded from many of the freedoms that people in Europe often take for granted . One of the key aims of the OPAC project is to overcome the isolation caused by the state of siege in Gaza, and through language education initiate a process of inclusion, communication and intercultural learning. We are therefore delighted to be able to present the OPAC project as part of “social justice and intercultural education” network within ECER 2018. Click HERE for more details about our presentation.
We will be speaking in this stunning venue:
“We”, however, means “the Glasgow team”. Yet again our colleague Nazmi al-Masri has been denied permission to exit the Gaza Strip, despite having a valid visa for Italy, just like the previous times he attempted to join us with valid visas and invites for his destination. We – all of us, the Glasgow team and the Gaza team – are frustrated and saddened beyond words.
Thankfully we have words already prepared to use for our presentation, and the frustration gives renewed purpose and urgency to a project which is about opportunities for learning beyond and despite the siege conditions in Gaza that are unimaginable for most of the conference delegates strolling around Bolzano.
There is a fig tree that we often walk by here – it reminds us of the fig trees in the photos sent to us by our Gaza colleagues, and every time we pass it we think of them. We post it here for as a symbol of hope, of abundant hope in difficult times, of hard work coming to fruition and being shared generously.
It is Eid al-Adha, and our colleagues in Gaza are getting ready for the celebrations.
Eid Mubarak everyone!
Public places in the Gaza Strip, such as the Islamic University of Gaza, are closed, but work on the Online Arabic from Palestine course is still ticking along. It’s now time for the last few tasks. After some to-ing and fro-ing of samples over WhatsApp, the course’s cover is ready, thanks to Gaza designer Maha, who volunteered to do this in her free time.
Most of the course is now available on the Moodle platform of the Islamic University of Gaza, and we are busy planning launch events in Gaza and Glasgow on the 19th of September. We chose this date because we wanted the launch to coincide with the UN International day of Peace. We had to anticipate the date a bit (the actual date is the 21st) because this year it falls on a Friday, and our colleagues in Gaza will not be at work. However, we hope that the date we have chosen for the launch will bode well for our course, for the future of the Gaza Strip and of Palestine, and for the building of language bridges to foster understanding and friendship.
We have worked very hard to make this a course that is different from all other Arabic courses (and many courses also in other languages). This course is special because:
- it is delivered from Gaza by trained and experienced Palestinian teachers based in Gaza… (the next best thing to travelling there)
- it talks about the challenges of living in Gaza and of being Palestinian, as well as teaching you to introduce yourself, ask for sage tea, buy a thwab (don’t know what a thwab is? If you take the course, you will!)
- it teaches you about Palestinian food, music, traditions, poetry and art, and also to know the difference between Modern Standard Arabic and the Palestinian dialect, so you are aware of these differences.
- It introduces each lesson with videos that will take you to a Gazan marked, to the library of the Islamic University of Gaza, to a Gazan home and to Gaza’s cafes, shops and restaurants. We are really looking forward to showing you all these lovely places in Gaza!
Of course, the lessons are designed to teach you Arabic in a Palestinian and Gazan context. Below are descriptors of what you will be able to do at the end of each level. We have adapted the Common European Framework for Languages as a guideline for this. By the end of each level, you will be able to:
We hope that many people will be interested in learning Arabic from Palestine. If you wish to get more information and/or book a place in the forthcoming course, please contact us using the form on this blog or directly via the Arabic Center (the link is available on our Home Page)
Look out for news about the launch!