For the fourth consecutive year, rising 7th graders from Turkey spent more than two weeks earlier this summer at the Hannaton Educational Center, in an effort to improve their Hebrew learning from native speakers and to observe kibbutz life first-hand.
“The major lesson that we would like our students to take away,” said Eleanora Bahar, program coordinator and head of Hebrew at the Ulus Jewish schools, “is to experience day to day culture on the kibbutz. The students study Hebrew throughout the school year, but they don’t have the opportunity to experience the true use of the language within a culture where Hebrew is spoken naturally.”
The 13-year-old students have already intensively studied Hebrew for two years at this point and most have been bar or bat mitzvahed, Bahar explained. This trip serves as a type of reward, she said, offering the students the experience to use their Hebrew with native speakers and to have the interactions with the Jewish youngsters visiting Hannaton from the United States and from all over the world, as there are many international students that visit and stay at the kibbutz at the same time they do.
It is a truly formative and unique experience for the students, as there are only approximately 18,000 Jews where they’re from and there is only one Jewish school in all of Turkey. 45% of Jewish community students get their education at that one school, which begins in kindergarten and extends through high school. The school follows the Turkish national educational curriculum, and in addition to that they have Hebrew courses and Jewish studies lessons.
While here in Israel, the 32 students spent their mornings in Hebrew lessons and their afternoons doing team-building and Jewish identity-themed activities with their counselors. Some days incorporated site-seeing, as well. But the main the focus of this trip is less on seeing the land and more on interacting with Hebrew speakers.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity, and an engaging program,” Bahar emphasized. “That’s why we come back each summer!”