March 17, 2023 — “Do you know how to say demolition? What about they took a tent? Or, I called the police?” DD was sitting on the steps in Tuwani, reviewing her notes before her Arabic lesson later that afternoon. “My homework is to write about my day yesterday,” she explained, “and unfortunately all of these phrases are relevant.”
Her notebook was filled with scattered phrases and topical words that she had accumulated over the course of the past month of living in the South Hebron Hills: attacked, tomatoes, army, car, running. With little time to dedicate to studying, and an often urgent need to communicate, the Hineinu activists try to focus their Arabic learning on the subjects that are most relevant to their day to day lives: demolitions, settler attacks and trespassing, calls to the police.
Three times a week, the activists learn with Arabic teachers from the villages that they are living in, working through verb conjugations and sentence structures. But more often than not, they accumulate new words while accompanying shepherds in the field or cooking dinner with kids.
Learning Arabic is, in itself, a small but powerful form of fighting the policies and culture of apartheid that dominates life in Masafer Yatta. Israel has passed legislation to delegitimize Arabic as a national language, and many Palestinians have had to learn Hebrew and English in order to survive life under Israel’s rule. By learning Arabic, activists are able to play a small role in reversing the language power dynamics that exist in the region. In the meantime, the activists spend their days flowing between all three languages — English, Arabic, and Hebrew — as they try to navigate a system of “law and order” that Israel has worked to make untenable for the people living under it.
Photos and text from Emily Glick.