Learning Hebrew


This happy and sunny picture was taken by me in the Yemin Moshe area of Jerusalem where I lived for a while in 2003. Isn’t it just bursting with the colours and vitality!? I don’t have any of my kibbutz photos with me here in Finland. But here is a fab photo on the net of kibbutz Alonim. The kibbutzim do look like this as well, though, for they are planted with gardens in a village-like setting. A kibbutz really is like a miniature village in its essence. This can be good but often it gets claustrophobic in a long run, as one need not step outside the village gate at all. All the services are there, even the hairdressers, beauticians and hospitals in many of the kibbutzim.

My favourite kibbutz of the four that I stayed in is right at the Lebanese border called, Yiron, but unfortunately, they did not have an Ulpan up there so I was forced to move to a kibbutz that did: Alonim, which is situated close to a town called, Qiryat Tivon on the main Haifa -Tiberias road.

I had had this strong yearning desire to learn Hebrew since I was 12-years of age and had been aiming to do so ever since. Talk about perseverance! This is a few word explanation what an ulpan is. I know, not exactly thorough but, at least, it gives a morsel what the word includes. Ulpan is often in a kibbutz where one works part-time and studies Hebrew six days a week full speed. It is an immersion course where everything is learned through Hebrew language whether it is the language  itself and the grammar, history, geography, music, or whatever, the teacher will only speak in Hebrew. We had all the above.

This idea of the immersion study is very hip and happening these days world over but then it was only done in Israel, as far as I am aware. Now nearly every country on the globe has in one or another language this excellent method of teaching. It sure gives amazing results and fast! Yet, it’s a fun way of learning, methinks. Hmm, most of the time that is…

The Aleph-course – the first level of studies – begins with right pantomime because most of the students do not have any of the language par a word or two; such as Shalom, Amen, Hallelujah, which are universal Hebrew words all over the world. I can still after all this time  picture Pnina, our teacher, doing these charades and exaggerated gestures with the punctuation of the correct pronunciation of the words and expressions she taught us. Oh, it was soo HILARIOUS! It makes me laugh, just as it did that time. And, do you know, I remember a lot of them with Pnina’s motions and moves!

The Ulpan was such a howl at times as I mentioned earlier in this entry. Pnina, my first teacher, was a born comedian. When she was trying to teach us, for example, ‘I am here. I am there.’ She would march out of the classroom and repeat for several times going back and forth:


Then returning.


Heureka!! The light bulbs went on. We got it.
What Pnina meant was:

“Pnina is there.
Pnina is here!”

Oh, we were soo pleased.
Pnina also, for sure. Metzuyan!!

She was praising our ability to get her charades saying:


It is most rewarding when one’s teaching methods work to the T, of course.

The class was too large for Pnina to handle by herself, so we were divided: I and another dozen or so who knew a bit more of the language went to Leah’s class – the Kita Bet – in the ulpan. Leah’s approach to teaching was vastly different from that of Pnina. No more comedy came from the front; it had to come from the class itself. It did.

Shalom, shalom m‘Riihele xx.


Here is another Ulpan-story a couple years ago when I revised me Hebrew in Jerusalem, called: ‘Hi Handsome!’

And some more Israel related entries:
Art of Living – Israel Style
Jerusalem City of Gold
Jerusalem: Life & Living
Jerusalem – Living History

The Hebrew words in bold:
Ulpan =
Hebrew language school
= there
Po = here
Yoffi = good, great
Metzuyan = excellent
= class
Bet = second; letter b
m‘= from

33 Responses

  1. I was in kibbutz alonim in ’77/78 and did a kita aleph class on the ulpan with my brother david We are both twins from the UK and were about 17 years old at the time. Our teacher was called Pnina and I remember her well. She was probaby in her 60’s at the time and was a wonderful lady and a very gifted teacher She only ever taught in Hebrew and never as I remember used any other language progress was very quick and i remember her fondly.

  2. Hei Sam.

    I was there in Alonim Sept76/March 77, so you must have come there just after our ‘year’ had left! Very nice to meet you, Sam. Do you write a blog as well somewhere? Would be so nice to read what you have to say, you know..

    Yes, Pnina was the teacher at Kita Aleph, but as the class was too large for to handle, a number of us were shifted to Leach’s class at Kita Bet. Since then I have done Kita Gimel in Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem that has absolutely super teachers and people in their classes.

    Kol Tuv. Riihele 🙂

  3. Hi Riihele

    Nice to hear from you ! Yes I probably just missed you though to be honest I am a bit hazy on dates so who knows maybe our paths crossed

    I remember two ladies who were involved in running the ulpan , Battya and Chava. Ring any bells ? I remember a few people from my class two English girls Anna and Malka, Harry from Scotland, Yassa from Azerbaijan, Bertie and Milla from Russia, a Japanese boy though I cant recall his name and Janet from the USA (very curly hair). Rueven from Sweden

    I also recall a very distinctive guy called Nissim I think, with an impressive handle bar moustache in his 60’s he often used to sit on one of the benches outside the dinning room and also a pretty strict guy who was in charge of the apple orchard (atzay pri) who used to shout zay lo paralell ! (We were supposed to tie the branches of the trees paralell with the wire fence. Another couple I recall were Danny and Teya both kibbutzniks. She was from Holland I think and Danny and I used to enjoy playing chess.

    I hope that sparks off a few memories !

    Take care and Shalom Sam (Shmuel)

    • Hallo Sam

      Yes i was at K. Alonim & remember you and David, star chess players, u took on the kibbutzniks and won! do you still play chess?

      Ri describes perfectly with great humour the comedy pantomime of Pnina and ‘sham’ ve ‘po’. She was great. i still have all my books from kita aleph!

      I also remember those apple trees and tying the branches parallel. If anyone didn’t know the meaning of parallel before, they certainly learned it from Nissim! the kibbutz experience will always give me appreciation of what it means to grow fruit, veg etc. and the hard work required.

      when i remember those times and from Ri’s lovely site here all the contributors, brings a smile to my face.

      We are almost into 2010, so i wish you a happy healthy and prosperous new year,
      best wishes, Malka

  4. Hei again Sam.

    Brilliant then you are the person whose face I ‘saw’ in my mind’s eye!! I somehow recall you and your brother saying something about Marty Feldman being a neighbour or something?!!

    Yes, these very same people were there when I was in Ulpan Alonim. So your date was ‘out’ for I left Israel that time in June 1977! Definitely, you see.

    In Kita Bet there were people like Ellen, Lisa, Mel, Ed from the US; Lynn and Estelle from Canada and Gerard from France. Remember them?!

    This is really exciting… WOW. Take care. Rii 🙂

  5. Riihele !

    That is amazing ! Your memory is astounding ! Incredible what people remember. We used to live opposite Marty Feldman on East Heath Road in Hampstead north west London ! And you still remember that after 30 years.

    I think I remember Ed or maybe it was it Tom ? He had a bushy beard if im thinking of the same person and was from one of the southern states of America. Texas maybe ? And Gerrard and Ellen also seem familiar. Gerrard I remember as someone into sports maybe running.

    I also remember eating bread and jam in our breaks and swatting the flies away. Have you had any feedback from anyone else from our ulpan ?
    And do you by any chance still have the end of year ulpan photo ? Sadly I lost mine. It would be nice to see a photo of you in your younger days as we are all a lot older now !

    I don’t know if you remember but a few of us used to make fun of Reuvens Swedish accent ! (In a friendly way) Epecially his pronounciation of birds names- he was heavily into bird watching as I recall !

    I think that Pnina was the most engaging teacher I have ever had and so many ex ulpanists must have fond memories of her.

    Do you still visit Israel ? I would love to go again. I last went in about 1994 so I really should go again soon. Now that I am thinking about Alonim maybe some more memories will come back and I’ll send you a message.

    Take care Sam

  6. Hei Sam.

    I do remember Reuven well but do not recall anything about birds, though. I always spoke Swedish with him anyway, you see.

    I have emailed with Ed, Lisa, Ellen and so on for a while but not lately; what about yourself? I do not have the Ulpan photo either, must have lost it with all the moves I have made in my life from one country to another!

    The last time I was in Israel was this past May. I did a couple of entries on Ein Bokek with photos and also, on Yemin Moshe which are on this site as well as my other site in Yahoo.

    How did you find your way to WordPress in the first place and secondly, to my site, I wonder?!! So great that you left a comment on your first visit, so great indeed.

    All the best. Rii 🙂

  7. Hi riihele

    Great to hear from you again. Ive always felt very nostalgic for my old kibbutz days and for Israel. I also did an ulpan on kibbutz Yagur but it didnt have the same inpact on me as alonim.

    A few times recently ive tried to find something on Alonim on the net but there was nothing much till i found your site and then Bingo ! The very first time that i have heard from anyone in 30 years ! Just fantastic.

    Well in fact I think I bumped into either Anna or Malka in London a few years after the ulpan but i cannot remember which one it was.

    riihele there is one memory I have of a strange inncident on alonim. There was a mexican guy and he told everyone he was organising a party collected a lot of money then went into Tivon to buy some alcahol (or so he said) and was never seen or heard of again ! I think I was one of those that gave him money ! Does anyone remember this I wonder ?

    There was a girl called Mazali Koronyo who lived in Alonim that i knew Just wondered if anyone else knew her ?

    Your art work on your site is very beautiful by the way !

    Have a great weekend Shalom Sam

  8. Hi Riihele

    How are you doing ? Hope you are doing well.

    Take Care Sam (From kibbutz Alonim )

  9. Hei Sam

    Thank you so very much for all the nice comments and
    so very very sorry
    for the lateness of my responses to the same.

    I do remember that Mexican guy as well, not his name right
    this minute, but have no memory of a party that he was supposed to get
    the drinks for, though!! Did he not look a bit like a weasel with his

    Hmm, I do not remember Masali, maybe, would recognize the face if I
    saw her. Nissan, I think was Chava’s father, surname is Almog, for some
    reason the surname has stayed my memory all these years.

    Do take care and have a grand weekend. Rii 🙂

  10. Hei there Rocket Spanish,

    Indeed so tis! It is a wonderful language. Rii 🙂

  11. Hallo Sam and Rii

    I’m Malka who was at K. Alonim with u and yes sometimes i also think back to those days and i remember you all, and all the names you’ve mentioned in your posts.

    Sam, I recall you and ur twin playing chess and beating all the kibbutzniks !! Do u both still play chess together?

    i thnk the guy with the mustache was Chava’s father.

    last academic year i started to relearn hebrew at the London Jewish Cultural Centre – my work/school timetable allowed me the time. unfortunately this year it doesn’t. so this year i’m learning psychology with the 16 yr olds at an after school club but i sure would like to return to learn hebrew properly and really be able to hold a conversation.

    would be great to hear from u both!!!

    best wishes, Malka

  12. Hei Malka


    i DO remember You so clearly, Malka.

    So wonderful that you found me and this entry!!
    I will try to email you at your addy that is left at the comment
    if that is okay with you, naturally.

    Keep so well and safe. Rii 🙂

    Looking forward to hearing more of how you are doing.

  13. wowow Rii, u have seen my post sooo quickly. wonderful. yes pls do email me and invite sam to email me also if he wishes

    i have a 12 yr old son, very occasionally, i talk to him about things of my youth, but he cannot take it in. its cos i’m so old to him. its as though i didnt have a life until he arrived !!
    ciao 4 now

  14. Hei again Malka

    Lovely that you responded so quickly on my comment to you!
    I will send a mail to you ASAP…
    Keep so well and safe. Rii 🙂

  15. I was interested to find your site. I was on Alonim from Feb – July/August 1976. Pnina, Batya, Chava I remember well. Also Danny and Teya who lived in the cottage just opposite the volunteer huts. Danny had a problem with his arm. My time in Alonim was wonderful, I met my wife Carmela (a Romanian) there and we have been married for 31 years. With regard to the Mexican, his name was Yossi and he was ‘married’ to a blonde mexican woman. He ‘disappeared’ from the Kibbutz in July 76 with lots of people’s money. Apparently last heard of getting on a boat to Cyprus. A little of it was mine.
    Keep well everyone. Glyn

  16. Hei Glyn

    Ooh, how very interesting to hear about another person who knows all about Alonim!!
    Which kita where you in, for i am sorry to say that your face does not ‘spring’ to my memory right this moment?!

    Keep so well and safe. Rii 🙂

    I do not recall Carmela either, i have to admit….

  17. Same here, perhaps we were slightly before you. Carmela was ola hadasha and didn’t like kibbutz life, she was in kita bet for 3 months then she left.
    I was in kita aleph, started february 1976. I worked picking grapefruit, oranges, in the apple orchards and the Alum factory.
    My absolute favourite job was cleaning the heder ochel floor, start at 5am, all finished by 0630. I used to really like the coffee shop evenings (although not the coffee!) Life was so simple then. I still have the group picture taken before everyone left.

  18. Hei Glyn

    Thanks a million for the reply and so sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this.

    I see, you were the course before us then, i think, for we started on Sept 1976.

    Keep so grand and safe. Rii 🙂

    Great that you found your Carmela in Alonim. Thanks for the name for the Mexican chap, too. I do remember Danny and Teya very well indeed. You must have been around when i and this gang were there to remember so much…

  19. Hi ,
    I was in kita aleph in Kibbutz Alonim in september 76 february 77 and left in June 77 .

    i was and still am into sport . .Although do lot of yoga for the last 20years .
    i knew Mazal korono and her sister .
    Actully I came back to Alonim in the spring of 78 and stayed there till the fall of 82.Ihad a great time there .
    Chava was indeed Nissim daughter . I amcame from france .Alsace .
    Shalom and Chag sameach

    • Hallo Remi

      I was at K. Alonim, in kita aleph with Pnina. And i remember so well her comedy.
      I also remember you.
      Wowowowow u were there a long time.
      Brings lightness to my soul to remember happy times!

  20. Hei Remi

    I do think that i do know who you are!!
    Great stuff that you found this entry and this page.

    Remi, you were a long time in Alonim (1978-1982)!

    Keep so grand and safe. Shalom, shalom.

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