My Israeli Icons: Gaga, Sababa and Itsik

My Israeli Icons: Gaga, Sababa and Itsik

By Glenda Koby

Glenda Koby is an educator for Beth El Religious School’s Chug Ivrit program.  Chug Ivrit is a Hebrew and Judaic enrichment class for K- 2nd graders. Glenda Koby and Itsik Sayag, part of Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program, are beginning their second year of work together.

Itsik Sayag is thrilled to be in his second year as the shaliach for Beth El Congregation and Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School as a part of Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program.

Gaga*, sababa**, Itsik: Three fabulously exciting things to a group of first and second-grade students in Beth El Religious School’s enrichment class, Chug Ivrit. What makes these three things so special and what do they do have in common? Israel! Our students learn about Israel. They learn about its size (tiny compared to the United States), the weather, the first Israeli in outer space and what Israel is like in general. It’s not all about falafel, hummus and Dead Sea mud face masks. We try to make Israel come alive.

Did you know gaga is not just some game you might play at camp and your teachers did not invent the games dag maluach (a game similar to red light green light) and three sticks? Gaga was invented in Israel. Real kids, just like them, play these games at their homes and schools in Israel. Learning Hebrew words is interesting but if you are 6, 7 or 8 years old, there is no word more perfect and exciting than sababa. It rolls off your tongue in a special way and sounds so great. Just using the word shows you are in the know about the real Israel.

How does Itsik fit into all this? He is the best singer, gaga player, child-entertainer, human jungle gym and fabulous co-teacher. He’s smart, too and knows a lot of stuff. He’s not Mr. Israel. He’s a really cool, interesting person and it happens he actually lives in Israel when he’s not helping all of us at Beth El learn more about Israel.

In several years these same students will be reading national and international news. They could get the idea that Israel is a dangerous place and the people are cruel and uncaring. Or they will see pictures and decide the Jewish people who live there are not like the Jews they know. Maybe the people in the news don’t dress like them or have their skin color. Some children might start to ask themselves, is this the real Israel?

Our 1st and 2nd grade Enrichment students will have these answers in them. They’ll think of their special class, and of gaga, sababa and Itsik. They will know the Jewish people have a very long and special relationship with the land of Israel, going all the way back to G-d and Abraham. They will know there are beautiful people and places in Israel. They will know the State of Israel is a country filled with families like theirs and real kids who have fun just like them. And they will know it’s not just all falafel and hummus. They know for sure, because their friend traveled to Israel and reported the chicken tenders and pasta are as good as anything they’ve had in Maryland.

*Gaga- a fast paced, high energy sport played in an octagonal pit.  Learn more

**Sababa- An Israeli word meaning cool or awesome