Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Korach and Hamas: Sharing PR Tactics

Following the recent flotilla fiasco facing the IDF last week, Israelis are wondering: Is Everyone Crazy? How is it that only we can appreciate the missiles raining down from Gaza, even today? How can the world watch Hamas continue to vow to destroy Israel, send terrorists to attack civilians, holds Gilad Shalit hostage – and still consider us to be the villain. In the words of Yossi Klein Halevi in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "Has the World Lost its Mind?"
No, it hasn't lost its mind. Rather, to our great dismay, the Palestinians have long last learned the media savvy and publicity techniques of Korach.

Click here to download a pdf version of Rav Spolter's Dvar Torah.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celebrating Yerushalayim

Each year, Orot's student and faculty gather together for a lunch celebration called "Bein Cheirut L'charut" which connects the freedom (Cheirut) that we achieved when we recaptured the city of Jerusalem celebrated by Yom Yerushalayim, and the gift of the Torah, symbolized by the words that were hewn (Charut) into the Tablets given to Moshe on Har Sinai.

At Orot, we emphasize the proximity between these two seemingly unrelated holidays to highlight our strong belief that our return to Yerushalayim directly relates to the Jewish nation's continued connection to the Torah. Without the continued revelation that Shavuot represents, there would have been no Yom Yerushalayim. And because of Yom Yerushalayim, we now connect to the Torah in profound and powerful ways.
The yearly program begins with a festive lunch on the lawns of Orot's campus, followed by scholarship presentations in the auditorium as well as the awarding of honors for student academic achievement. This year following the presentations, the students enjoyed a concert by the popular Vach family, whose beautiful musical arrangements and multiple harmonies have wowed audiences across Israel. The second half of the concert provided a special treat for Orot's students who enjoyed a women-only program that featured both the men and women of the Vach family.
This unique, yearly celebration of both the holiness of Matan Torah as well as the miracle of Yom Yerushlayim and the scholarship of Orot's capable students, underscores Orot's special mission of combining Torah, academics, scholarship and a love for Eretz Yisrael to educate Israel's next generation of teachers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

English Champions on a Treasure Hunt

by Dr. Vitela Arzi
Head of the English Department

If you happened to visit the Elkana campus on Jerusalem Day and wondered why children's shouts of joy were heard all over the campus, it's because they were "scavenging" for clues for Jerusalem's Old City Gates. This unique adventure was part of a whole day experience, organized by students of the English Department, for the English Champions of "Nahalat Binyamin" elementary school in Ofra.

This special group of Hebrew-speaking pupils who excel in English, is supervised by teacher Shira Hoffman, a graduate of Orot's English Department . Shira, with whom the English Department maintains constant connections, like with other graduates, had approached Dr. Vitela Arzi , Head of the Department and asked whether we could help out in organizing a special study event for the Champions group. Pedagogic Instructor ("Madafit") Dr. Chaya Katz, enthusiastically rose to the challenge of organizing a full and creative study day, revolving around the topic of Jerusalem.

The new challenge met our on- going credo that relevant Jewish content should be integrated into the teaching of English , and that English lessons should enhance educational , cultural and Jewish values. Over the past few years, Orot has declared an annual educational topic that would be incorporated across the curricula. The topic selected this year is the "Circles of the Jewish People", and the idea of "Am Israel and the Diaspora" is but one aspect of that vast topic. The English Department has chosen to focus on Jerusalem's central role in the bond between the people sitting in Zion and the Diaspora. What could be more representative of that bond than the vision established in the Amidah prayer recited three times a day?
"Return to Your city Jerusalem in mercy, and establish Yourself there as you promised…Blessed are you Lord, builder of Jerusalem." ?
And what would be more appropriate for the English Champions group than to lead them on a journey of discovery scheduled on Yom Yerushalaim?
Dressed in blue and white, a group of excited boys and their teacher -Shira- entered the Jerusalem classroom that had been specially decorated to fit the event , and supplied with light refreshments contributed by the college.
The project had two parts: A Learning Center and a delightful Treasure Hunt.
The Learning Center reflected the idea of a heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, the spiritual and the physical, past and present , and consisted of four "stations" : a) The New Neighborhoods – Miskanot Shaananim ; b) The Western Wall - a remnant of the Temple, and a spiritual center for the entire Jewish world; c) The Tower of David – a symbol of the past; d) Jerusalem's Gates- all roads lead to Jerusalem.
From the viewpoint of language instruction each "station" included a)an authentic text from a newspaper clip or an encyclopedia entry; b) presentation of relevant vocabulary; c) practice of relevant vocabulary, d) relevant application.
Supervised by the professional staff of Orot's pedagogic center, and by Mrs. Adina Salomon in particular, students designed and prepared learning materials, displays , work sheets and artwork decorations .
Each station activated different learning styles and goals, both in the presentation of the material and in the methods used for language practice, ensuring that this study day epitomized a multi-sensory learning experience. The following dimensions were included:
· Visual- pictures, maps, flags in different colors
· Auditory – songs and read aloud texts
· Sensory – displays, matching games, responses to statements
· Experiential (action learning)- role play and interviews
· Analytic- letter writing , decision making and questions.
The second part of the day, included an exciting Treasure Hunt competition focusing on the theme of Jerusalem's Gates.
First, a large scale model of the walls of the Old City with its various gates, was displayed in the auditorium. Each Gate had a text and a clue that the pupils had to decipher in order to progress from gate to gate. Equipped with a map of the campus, pupils chased around looking for clues for the next Gate, till the final clue that led them to the Treasure- a gold key of the Old City – was found. The gold key was the winners' prize, but there was also a second prize – a flag of Jerusalem- for the group that answered most of the questions.
Says Linoy, a first year student : " It was an amazing experience. The boys were cooperative and smart. I learned a lot how to approach children, and how to use various educational methods. I feel lucky that I could partake in this wonderful experience". Dora, a second year student adds: "The children asked questions and were very interested in the material. They enjoyed the game in the learning center and remembered everything they read. They spoke in English and answered the questions in English. It was really great; I felt that the learning center was worth all the efforts. I feel that the children, and we the student-teachers gained a lot from this special day." And Lehava, a second year student, concludes with what seems to be the English Department's credo: " I saw how important it is to teach topics like Jerusalem Day in the English classroom, and not focus only on grammatical rules."