Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Alon Shvut

From the moment began meeting with Israeli educators, everybody has been telling me I needed to meet with Reuven Werber. Educators who knew about me told their friends I needed to spend time with Reuven. With all the technology at my disposal, I finally picked up my mobile phone and called him. Reuven moved to Israel in the 70's, lives in Judea, is the technological heart and soul of Neveh Channah High School, and a wealth of information. Everything about my day with Reuven was memorable. I knew I was in for a treat when Jay said, "Reuven will have to tell you how to get to him since that involves settlements." Cryptic? As a former VP candidate might say, "You betcha!" Reuven tell me to meet him at Alon Shvut (yep, I asked him to spell it), old gate. A quick search revealed Alon Shvut's history. I have become pretty adept at navigating the Egged bus site. Egged is one of two major bus companies in Israel. I raised an eyebrow when I noticed the tank icon on the schedule of buses to Alon Shvut. Turns out buses from Jerusalem to the West Bank are armored. This was going to be an interesting expedition. After assuring Pam I would call her along the way, I set off to find Reuven. Sure enough, the bus looked different. It had extra plastic over the windows (no tourist shots from these buses,) grills over the lights, and very experienced drivers. After taking a seat near the middle, I realized I was going to have move to the front to try to take pictures out the front window of the bus. Here is a photo of the guy next to me....ignore him, look out the window. Now, imagine that view for the entire thirty minute trip!

First part of the trip was uneventful, just traveling through Jerusalem.  Then, life became interesting, we passed a police checkpoint, a major border crossing, and then we were on a brand new road with a wall on one side.  Yep, guardtowers, too.  We pulled into the first stop, went through a gate, let one person off, made a very tight circle around the roundabout, and were off again, through the same gate. We reached Alon Shvut, I got off, and called Reuven.  He knew where I was (I had once again, gotten off at the wrong stop), and said he would meet me in a couple of minutes.  Looking just like his profile photos, he showed up, we drove to his high school.  Neveh Channah.  Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls is in the Etzion block.  Gush Etzion dates back to the 1920's, has seen more than its share of conflict in the past 80+ years, and seems to be off the table in the two-state border negotiations.  What is still to be negotiated is what will happen east of Gush Etzion.  Back to Reuven, the guy is simply amazing.  He has been active in edcuation technology from the beginning, serves as the technologist for his school, collaborates with schools around the world, and is quite simply, a font of wisdom.  He shared his wiki site which contains most of his recent projects.  Reuven also edits a whole section of the Mofet website.  A couple of Neveh Channah classrooms have newly installed ActivBoards.  Here is a photo of one of two physics classrooms.  His projects are totally student centered.  Kids are using complex tools to create projects about everything from the geology of their region to their reactions to texts read as part of a joint Israeli-Canadian project  A teacher with an idea comes to Reuven, who says of course it can be done,  Let's figure out how to do it.  What a great job!  At one point, I asked Reuven about the whether his students could do their homework electronically.  He said they could, but they usually preferred to check their Facebook accounts instead.  Sound familiar?  Computers keep Neveh Channah connected to the world.  There really isn't much around them.  Jerusalem is 1/2 hour by car or bus.  No walking.  It reminded me of communities in Central Oregon.  The schools were clearly the focal point of the community.  They were also the largest buildings I saw. After a terrific morning with Reuven, we talked briefly about the politics of modern Israel.  There has been much fighting in the 80 or so years since the first Jews returned to the area.  Former students of his have died.  We talked about what needed to happen in order for peace to come to the area.  I'll be forwarding Reuven's views to Senator Mitchell.  George is going to need all the help he can get.  Returning to Jerusalem, I began reflecting what life must be like for young Israelis.  These folks take the bus everywhere.  Every time they leave their home, they get on a bus with extra armor.....and it seems normal.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. My name is Jody and I met your wife Pam on the Promenade overlooking the old city this morning. She referred me to your blog.

    Tell her I say hello and she can check out my husband's blog all about Israel too!