|The Problematic Difficalities of Horfesh-Israel|
|Past - Israel|
|Friday, 11 January 2008|
The raw beauty of the Horfesh landscape. It was breathtaking, and a real privilage to have lived there, even for just two weeks. I wonder what has become of the people I once knew...
Horfesh is situated in the North of Isreal, right by the Lebanon border. In the summer of '99 when I was there, the situation between Israel and Lebanon was growing, and had not yet reached its climax. However, while I was there, I could often here the explosions of morters in the distance from the lebonese army. They weren't attacking, and didn't intend to hurt anyone by the shots, but merely wanted to let people know that they were still there. Kind of like friendly fire, but without the friendliness.
Dispite this the small village was extremely peaceful. There were hardly any cars, people would walk around, generally minding there own business and would greet each other kindly.
I lived in the house which stood tallest among the few in the picture above, and lived with a Druze host family of 6. The oldest boy, who was my guide or host brother, was called Jimmy (picture below, in the right). He was a bit of a rebel in the town, so was well known, but respected amoung his peers. His father, a respected Israeli army officer was very willing to have an English speaking foreigner staying with the family for a few weeks as he wanted some of my language ability to rub off on his son. Jimmy had been kicked out of school a few times for misbehaviour, and his father wanted something new to keep him occupied, with the hope of changing his focus in life. Unfortunately for him, I wasn't the talkative type, and his expectations of English tutoring turned to disappointment as the weeks drew on. However, I hope I made an impact on Jimmy by being there, even if it was a small one.
Jimmy's mother was a very warm lady, who looked after her family well. She had a small daughter of about 7 or so months to look after as weel as the three boys. She made the most amazing lemonade, with real herbs and some secret ingredient. Well, I guess she would have told me what it was if her English was better. Jimmy, his father and his younger brother closest to him in age, were the only ones in the family that could speak a bit of English. However, dispite the very poor English ability of Jimmy's mother, she was able to recite most of the words of Blade, the movie with Wesley Snipes, in perfect English, when it was on TV.
Jimmy, and the family lived next door to their cousins, and had done all their lives, in fact most of the village was related to each other.
Fatmi and Hala were sisters, and as Druze women of Horfesh, they were expected to stay in the village their whole lives. Only the men could travel and leave if they so wished. Their older sister who was 19 at the time worked in the nearby clothes factory which would be her job probably until she got married, and maybe for the rest of her life. But that was the way of the village, and they accepted that and seemed to be content and happy to the best of my knowledge.
The Druze community were an extremely interesting people to live with, even though at the time I was too young to truely appreciate the opportunity afforded me. The Druze are a religious community who believe in a form of Islam. They number between 450,000 and 1,000,000 in total world population and their primary language is Arabic. Believing in only one God, they are monotheistic, and indeed call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid ("People of Monotheism") or al-Muwahhidūn ("Monotheists"). They also believe that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi where prophets, the last of which was the early leader of the Druze, from which the name Druze is believed to have been taken. They are an honest people who generally abstain from smoking, alcohol consumption, pork, polygamy and marriage to non-Druze. The religion was very secretive at the higher levels, not even the common Druze being allowed to know the full details. It was rumoured while I was there that the Sherwal, the trousers worn by the Druze had the baggy crotch area, due to a rather unusual belief that they held. This was that their saviour or messiah would come back to earth, but would be born of a man, thus the baggy area would catch the baby at birth. I am not quite sure where the rumour came from mind.
While I was there, I was responsible for a small class of children aged 11 and 12. The one boy amongst the five other girls felt a bit self concious and shy being the only one in the group and initially wanted to move class, but later on got used to it and decided to stay. They were a great group of kids. However, I do remember my first ever class room management problem happened here. Initially there were two teachers for this group, another teacher called Theresa, and myself. I was allowed to be the funny one, and Theresa was the more serious teacher. Kind of like good cop bad cop, but in a classroom. However, after a few days, Theresa got drafted into another much larger class, leaving me to deal with the students myself. Initially, the students were not told, and I just came to class myself one day. However, after a while, the kids started getting annoyed as they didn't know what had happened to Theresa, and wanted her back. It was then that the girl on the far right (I don't remember her name) who was actually an amazing and very bright student, started banging on the table and shouting the chant "WE WANT THERESA, WE WANT THERESA...". I'm sure Theresa would have been flattered, but at this moment I had no idea what to do. Luckily for me, I was able to think fast. I totally scrapped the lesson for the day, and decided to have them make cards for Theresa, telling her themselves, that they wanted her back. My little stroke of genius (if I do say so myself) managed to work, and they happily and quietly continued the lesson making the lovely cards, which I later gave to Theresa.
I enjoyed this camp more than the other one in Sha'ar HaNegev, I think because I had more interaction with the students, and was allowed to have more control over the activities that my class did. I was also living much closer to the community than in the other camp, where I lived within a closed school complex. The classroom incident wasn't the only trouble I had though. There were other issues that arose in the camp. For example, our camp supervisor Raid (the man on the far left), a military man didn't quite know how to manage us in any way other than the military style he had trained with, which we didn't quite take to. As a result this proved to be quite "problematic" and there were "difficalities". (Raid for some reason prefered these versions of the English words to problems and difficulties. We found it quite amusing, so decided to let him continue, he pretty much spoke perfect English anyway). As the days went on his attitude did change though, which made for a much better experience for us all. Also where we used to have lunch at work, the food was amazing, however, it was difficult to overlook the wasps nest nearby, where the wasps would swoop down and gently lift the grains of rice and noodles off our plates and carry them away. Personally, I found this amazing. I could watch them all day, but the girls in the group were not amused by the wasp tricks. Oh and of course there was the time when my host mother boiled my favourite simpsons socks, which totally faded the colour. I didn't mind much though. All these troubles were insignificant to the fact that it was a lovely warm summer, I was in Israel, in the beautiful village of Horfesh, living with a rare Druze community, working with lovely people, and lovely kids. I was happy, and I would love to go back.
However, I do fear for the people of the Druze community, many of which were members of the Israeli Armed Forces. I know many of the residents may have been victims of the bombings when the violence escalated, as Horfesh was in the bombing zone, indicated by the red shading in the map of Israel above. I just hope my students were ok.
“Bodily exercize, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”
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