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A Special Night for Some Extraordinary Children

July 2008

It was a cool summer evening as the crowd began gathering into the outdoor grass auditorium. A mix of conversations in Arabic and Hebrew filled the air. The younger children were running around and wrestling, while the older boys and girls broke off into their various cliques and groups of friends. The parents and older villagers situated themselves behind the child-dominated first row - lugging down strollers and setting up their lawn chairs, while trying to keep a watchful, yet liberal eye on their children as they ran about aimlessly. Even a random village dog lazily cushioned himself in the front row, watching as everyone busily prepared for the nights’ events. Reem Nashef, one half of the 6th grade teacher duo, was herding the students together near the stage, conducting last minute rehearsals and making final arrangements. Hezzi Shuster, the second half of the team, was busy directing the switchboard and lights operators, ensuring the stage looked its optimal best. The two didn’t do it alone though; there were many people who helped plan and execute the big event.

As the lights came down, a hush fell over the crowd and suddenly, the spotlight was on Hezzi and Reem as they began their long list of opening remarks and “thank-you’s”. The sixth-grade graduation was the culmination of a seven-year process that had begun in Kindergarten. Next year the children will go off into their various intermediate schools and eventually high schools, where integration isn’t the norm. Many of the children will be challenged by their new peers, as to why they are friends with the “other.” Some kids may keep the same friends, and may at times have to stand up and defend them; while others may break off into the classic high school hierarchical groups to be socially accepted. But for tonight, those thoughts are put aside. Tonight is a night of enjoyment, laughter, music, and theater.

The children’s program started off with a hip-hop(rap) song, using the instrumental melody from the Fugee’s song, “Ready or Not” (which samples Enya’s song, “Boadicea” and grabs its hook from the Delfonics’, “Ready or Not, Here I Come"). The children did their own rendition, with their original hip-hop lyrics predominantly in Arabic, but with various Hebrew phrases. Tamer Nafar, from the first and most popular Palestinian rap group DAM, has been teaching and working with the children for the last couple of months - helping them develop their technique. A choreographed dance routine continued in the background, with various children reciting solo verses. The excellent dance/hip-hop exhibition was followed by an opening credits presentation, shown on a large projection screen. The video went through each child’s name and gave a small snippet of the skit he or she would be performing.

The skits would be a myriad of short dialogues, poetry, and plays. Although, not everyone would be able to understand each skit, the tone of the plays was easily decipherable. Many of the plays seemed to revolve around quarrels and silly arguments, almost exposing the absurdity of such conflicts that arise everyday in society, usually between adults. The children unconsciously showed a keen understanding of what goes on everyday in Israel/Palestine through satire and farce. Every so often, a short dance routine would break up the series of plays. Some musically gifted children played the darbooka,or hand drum, while other children danced traditional Palestinian dances, called the Dabke. The final hip-hop exhibition was done to the instrumental music from Methodman and Redman’s, “Da Rackwilder.” This medley got the crowd involved: when the kids shouted Neve Shalom, the crowd yelled Wahat al-Salam, and when the kids shouted Wahat al-Salam, the crowd responded, Neve Shalom. The last performance was a mini-light show that the kids put on with flashlights to the backdrop of a cascading melody.

The children would then wrap up the evening with their own “thank-you’s” to Hezzi, Reem, their parents, and all others who were involved in the production. They would distribute gifts and large bouquets of flowers. When the children were done, the teachers and Anwar Daoud, the principal, would distribute the graduation certificates and of course give plenty of hugs.

As the night came to a close, the crowd headed to the Nadi (youth club) for some refreshments, while others lingered around and conversed for the first time with other parents or faculty. Once again the sounds of Arabic and Hebrew filled the cool night air. Once again, the pre-adolescent youths broke up into their various cliques and groups of friends. The adults and village elders collected their belongings, while parents slowly collected their children and gradually made their way back to their cars, carrying little ones and pulling strollers with them. While the adults were intent on quickly heading home to catch the Euro-Cup Finals, a subtle, yet interesting occurrence spontaneously emerged. Many of the younger children could care less about the Germany-Spain match. Instead, they piled onto the stage to say hello to their older friends and siblings. As they gave high fives and smiled, one could tell that each younger child wanted to feel like they were part of the show; knowing that one day they would get their chance, and on that day, they would be the ones performing for their village and their greater community.

Slide show:

More photos

6th grade graduation

5th grade end of year party

4th grade end of year party

3rd grade end of year party

2nd grade end of year party

1st grade end of year party

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