Much to our children’s delight, my wife and I are now full time students. That’s right, just after they go to the bus station, daycare, and Gan, my wife and I are on our way to the Ulpan in Alon Shevut. That is where we spend 4 days a week in 4 hour Hebrew classes. Our kids are amazed that we are not only going to school, but that we even sit and do homework at night. (Sometimes they yell if we are not doing our homework.)
My wife and I had extremely limited Hebrew before making Aliyah. Neither one of us grew up with a day school background. We can get through the Siddur all right, but you can’t really use that knowledge for everyday Hebrew. The Hebrew in a Siddur may be a wonderful way to express ones feelings to G-D, but its not as useful when expressing oneself to a plumber.
So on day one, there I was grappling with the Aleph Bet. No, I never learned the names of the letters or differences between a sin and a shin (one you shouldn’t do, the other is part of the foot). However, everyone has to start somewhere. Before too long, I was keeping up with the class, conjugating verbs, reciting stories about goats, and singing the song of the week! I can proudly say that in addition to davening, I can now ask for Pizza and a beer in Hebrew!
Our class is a great example of Israeli society. Our classmates are from America, South Africa, Australia, India (I didn’t even know there were Jews in India, let alone Jews who were no longer in India), and many other exotic places like Brooklyn. Even though our backgrounds could not be more different, we came to Israel because we shared the feelings that wherever we lived, we were not “home.” And even if we couldn’t speak the language of our “home,” we were not going to let that stop us.
Thankfully, the government of Israel understands the importance of bringing people like us home. These language classes, which are so crucial for successful Aliyah, are funded by the government of Israel. It’s ironic. In Maryland I was the administrator of a day school that charged thousands of dollars in tuition. Here in Israel, I am being paid to go to school. What a country!