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Can a common language bridge cultural differences?

Posted on 1/9/2014 by Israel Today
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The tower of Babel is a classic example of how powerful a language can be in either dividing or uniting people.

In the German Friday school in Jerusalem, Yad B'Yad (Hand in Hand), one can experience a unique encounter of different cultures through a common German language. A few months ago I started teaching German to children from a German background.

It was fascinating for me to see how children from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds learn not only German language and literature but also about each other’s traditions. For example, in my class there were children from Christian, Muslim and Jewish families.

Within the first hour I already experienced the uniqueness of an exchange. While Amichai and Livia were discussing the traditions and meaning of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, Malek told about Ramadan.

The cultural exchange takes place in the school at different levels and not only in the classrooms. In the hallways, where parents wait for their children, they establish contact with each other. The “Hand in Hand” school is very unique in fostering a mutual understanding and demonstrates that children and families of Jews, Arabs and Christians can live together in mutual respect and friendship.

By Ora Shapiro

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