When Robby Berman reached an impasse in his Arabic learning, he realized that the only way to get over it was by having everyday conversations with native speakers. Living in Jerusalem, it wasn’t difficult to meet Arabs in the street. But Robby found that talking with adults was frustrating – they used too much unfamiliar vocabulary and the conversations always turned political. So he decided to start chatting with the kids who sell mint leaves on Emek Refa’im Street in West Jerusalem. Rather than keep buying more and more mint he didn’t need, he offered to pay the kids to sit and speak Arabic with him. And now, he’s slowly helping the kids to turn this into a business.
Meet Hanin, 12 years old, and her siblings and cousins. They’re from Hebron district in the West Bank, one of the most volatile areas in the region. She’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Arabic teacher” on it, and she’s standing next to a Charlie Brown-type sign saying “The teacher is in. 10-minute Arabic lesson for 10 shekel.” That’s about $2.50. TLV1’s Laragh Widdess has an Arabic lesson with her, and speaks to Robby about the challenges he faces instilling a work ethic in kids so young, who’ve grown up begging or peddling. And how are Israelis reacting to this initiative, which promotes coexistence at a time of high tension?
Shoushou – Alf Ba Wa-Bubaya (Alphabet Song)
Fairouz – Alamouni (Teach Me)
Written and produced by Laragh Widdess