Gan is pronounced like “gun” but it means “garden.” As in Kindergarten.
So what’s weird about kindergarten???
Well, I don’t know about you, but where I come from, kindergarten is a grade. Actually, in Ontario, we have two levels of kindergarten: junior (JK) and senior (SK).
In any event, as a grade, it takes place in a SCHOOL. With a principal and teachers. In a classroom that, except for a few more toys, is kind of indistinguishable from a very colourful Grade 1 classroom.
Gan does not.
Gan is a separate building. If your kid goes to gan for two years, there’s a decent chance (depending on where you live and a bunch of other variables) that they’ll have to go to a different gan for each year.
In gan, there are no teachers or principals: there’s a ganenet. This is a hard word, apparently, judging from the fact that it took my sister many tries to not quite get it right while she was here. Say it: “Gun” the letter “en” then “ette” like the end of cigarette (chas v’shalom). Gun-en-ette.
Schools have names that are sometimes lofty, sometimes vague. Naomi’s school is Moriah, named after Har Hamoriah (Mount Moriah), the holy Temple Mount site where Avraham nearly sacrificed Yitzchak. Other elementary schools around here are Aharon Haroeh, Yamit (roughly, “sea” school; it’s right beside the ocean) and Sinai. Nice, lofty names.
Gans are named after objects, period. Preferably basic one-word nouns that sound like they were thought up as team names by an unimaginative camp counsellor.
GZ switched gans this week. His old gan was called Gan Etrog (citron kindergarten). His new gan is called Gan Chitah (wheat kindergarten). Here it is:
Actually… that is the other weird thing about gans.
Gans are built side-by-side.
I don’t know if this is a local phenomenon or some kind of thing to save building materials and other resources, but almost every gan I’ve seen is actually TWO gans right next to each other. There are separate entrances, separate bathrooms, separate playgrounds. The kids don’t play together, let alone greet or even know each other during school hours. But they are right there, side by side.
The picture above, though I said it is GZ’s new gan, is actually mainly of the next-door gan, Gan Tapuchim (apples kindergarten). His old gan, Gan Etrog, was right next to Gan Hadas (myrtle kindergarten).
The new gan looks very new… kind of sterile, in fact. Akiva told me they build it just a few years ago because, and I quote, “the old one fell down.” I’m counting myself lucky because it’s not surrounded by a sand pit like most. Those sand pits make their way home in shoes, pockets, backpacks - everywhere.
Inside the gan, it goes without saying that everything possible is child-sized: tables, chairs, aron kodesh (the little Holy Ark at the front of the room). It seems like a very nice place to start out in school.
The picture right at the top of this post is a “goodbye picture” Akiva took. He never did fit in there, exactly. The new gan is more mixed, racially; he will no longer be the only “lavan.” Also, even the Ethiopian kids there are more likely to be second-generation Israeli and fluent Hebrew speakers.
Here’s another local gan I happened to be walking past on Friday. This one is called Gan Tzivoni (colourful kindergarten). There’s another one next door, but I didn’t catch the name.
You can see stuck to the fence: every gan in town gets routinely plastered with posters for every single upcoming children’s play and production anywhere in the vicinity. Unfortunately, both of the ones shown here were on Shabbat.
I actually took the kids to a play two weeks ago. They have them every month in the ulam (community centre). What can I say? It was a terrible play, with puppets, based loosely on the mashal (parable) of the guy who goes out looking for diamonds and brings home a boat reeking-full of fish.
What? Never heard it before? Google it; it’s a good one, but everyone who knows me is sick of it by now.
Anyway, the play wasn’t all that great, and my kids didn’t understand it all that well, and it was overly loud and the audience members were obnoxious, but somehow, sitting there, I felt happy to be part of a community, feeling maybe like things in Israel were not so weird after all.
But then I couldn’t help but notice, though, that the characters in the play, when they want to make them sound like idiots, just total dummies, they give them a bit of the old American accident. “Mah? Mah ani rotzah???” with a nice American R.
Okay, so it’s still quite quite strange here. Sometimes, overwhelmingly strange. But culture shock is an insidious thing that doesn’t always lend itself well to witty blog posts.
Still, I’ll try to post more of these as they occur to me.
In the meantime, I have to go to bed so I can be up early for our second day of… Wheat Kindergarten!!!
Come on – that’s weird, isn’t it????