Ulpan students meet after class..
(photo credit: BENITA LEVIN)
It's been more than two decades since I last attended lectures and even longer since I sat on a school chair with wooden desks in front of a white board. The class is full of adults, mostly fellow olim (immigrants) who are offered the intensive five-month Hebrew course soon after moving to Israel. But one can’t help but feel like a teenager again, securing the seat in the back row, glancing surreptitiously at one’s watch to see when the next break is due and giggling with classmates about the increasing amount of “homework” we’re given, five days a week.Our teacher is witty and sassy with a passion for the language that reminds me of Robin William’s lovable character in the movie “Dead Poets’ Society.” But if any students here were ever shouting “O Captain! My Captain” they wouldn’t be doing so in English. There are only five English- speaking students in this class of more than twenty – two Americans, two from England and me, waving the South African flag. I was stunned by the range of countries ‘represented’ in this archaic looking classroom – Brazil, France, Russia, Ukraine, Columbia, Mexico and Turkey. Classmates include a cardiologist, doctor, psychologist, biologist, advertising manager, clothing exporter, patisserie chef and a club deejay. In class, your qualifications and careers mean very little – all things being equal, we are all pupils being transported back to our youth, trying our best to access a dormant part of our brain, while hoping that our weekly test won’t be too tough.