Thursday, June 2, 2016

Big Week for Ilana

This week, the iriya (local city) graduated its last children's ulpan class.  We are delighted that Ilana was one of the students in grades 1-6 who received ulpan for about 18 hours/week.  Baruch Hashem her Hebrew is vastly improved from when we arrived and she even has Israeli friends at school with whom she only speaks Hebrew (according to the teacher, at least! So far, these girls haven't come to the house).

The Iriya did a very nice job on the graduation.  All I was expecting was a little "Pomp and Circumstance" and a diploma, but this was an entire evening of festivities.  The city rented a bus to go to the site and stopped at the two city community centers on the way.  This was very convenient for those of us without a car :).  We visited Gan Golan in Beit Shemesh, which is named after fallen soldier Golan Pelli whose parents are artists who converted a space next to their house into a beautiful Biblical sculpture park in his memory.

Pomegranate tree!

We next went to a community center where the staff had set up arts and crafts, had falafal delivered for dinner and showed a movie about the history of Beit Shemesh.  Hard to believe that where the local mall currently is, there used to be hundreds of metal caravans housing entire immigrant families in extremely cramped spaces.  The man who the first teacher there spoke on the video about the children seeing his "home" and how amazed they were that he had "all that space" to himself.  He said, "to them, I was a millionaire because I had a caravan to myself!".  I found it very interesting to hear the memories of immigrants from an earlier generation, and the hardships they had to go through to move to the very same area we so recently came to.  B''H, all I have to do to get water is turn on the tap....there is plentiful food at the stores....we have electricity.....our house is big.....You get the idea.

Here is Ilana getting her diploma from Morah Nechama:

Ilana also participated in her school's Yom Yerushalayim festival yesterday, celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.
June 7, 1967, when Israeli paratroopers recaptured the Kotel.  

and a more modern-day celebration :).  Ilana is third from the left
 It was very sweet to see the hundreds of girls in her school dancing, singing and celebrating Jerusalem.  It was also stunning to the see the two fourth grade classes on stage together and realizing that the 60 of them on stage was the largest number of girls performing that I had ever seen (Ilana's grade being bigger than the entire BY Boston school!).  I especially enjoyed hearing the young adult daughter of the choir/dance teacher sing "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav", a song that I had never really related to, in such a beautiful way that I had tears in my eyes.

As the performance was going on, a woman I didn't know tugged on my sleeve and said in English, "isn't this amazing?  Aren't you glad you made aliyah and can be here to celebrate this?".  I really have no idea who this woman is or how she knew we were new olim, but I agree with her!

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