To see Albania from the Middle East

10979391_1606018716298250_337399510_nOriginal article in Albanian:

War, Arabs, Jews, oil, Islam, hijabs, money are only a few of the words that first come to your mind when you hear about the Middle East; stereotypes are unavoidable. When I first heard of an international school in Israel, the first thing that came to my mind was the conflict, even though I knew very little about it.

However, the desire for a better education eased my fear of the volatile situation, by having a bit of security from the school, of course. By studying 10 years in Albania, the idea of a better education was a very naive thought. Now I clearly understand what the true meaning of it is. Only now I understand how problematic our traditional education is, and just how big the communication gap between students and teachers is. Only now I understand the difference between schooling and education, and how the problem starts from the name of the ministry. And this is just the beginning…

The biggest problem in Albania is that nobody cares about the law. Even those who are “caught” are merely another achievement of law enforcement, and not a subject of condemnation from society. This happens because people do not denounce the legal infringement, sometimes because they cannot do it, sometimes because they are corrupt.

Let’s leave behind the education issue. ‘An Albanian in Israel!’ Wow! I was really sure that everyone would have heard about our small and blessed country, especially Jews. They would know for sure that Albania has protected Jewish people during the World War II. Moreover, we are the oldest population in the Balkans, even in Europe. Our language is absolutely unique, it’s not similar to any other language. We have so much to protect and conserve, especially our beautiful language.

Most often, we, Albanians think that we’re the center of the world, but in fact we make a huge mistake. Only a few people have ever heard about Albania in the seven continents. Questions and remarks like: “Does Albania share a border with Germany?”, “Oh yeah, Rome!”, “You speak Greek, right?” are now ordinary, even though sometimes they hurt. After all, we are a country that has hosted only occupations. Small and weak. Isolated before, during, and after communism. Maybe not so politically isolated after the 90’s, but definitely mentally isolated. People like to use the word “open-minded” but don’t know its real meaning or its value!

But Albanians likewise know very little about Israel. There are no classes and no topics about that taught or even approached in our schools. Furthermore, what is represented in the media doesn’t represent the general reality of life. In the region of a majoritarian Arab population, there’s the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supported by their allies. Two populations that were living in harmony have their ideals clashing at the question of each other’s state; and at this point there is no room for saying who is right and who is wrong. People that believe they do not like each other, that they cannot live in the same place with each other, followers of “Me or you in this land!” But who is born to hate and not to accept? Nobody!

My community, where I have been living for five months now, includes 20% Arabs, 20% Israelis and the other 60% from other 35 nationalities. All of us live, study, grow together, breaking every kind of prejudice, accepting others and thinking twice about ourselves, embracing the right not to be equal, but to be different. Doesn’t all this make you think that all that political formality makes things worse than better?

One of my best friends is Serbian. Yes, we live together! In one of our conversations after the Albania-Serbia football match, I was surprised to know that they learn totally different history from what we do. I am wondering now who actually writes the history?

Adolescent rebellion makes you see everything in a critical way, notably when you talk about your country. This doesn’t happen because you don’t love your country, but because you want the best for it and when this does not happen, the wish to make the difference is bigger. Our country has made great progress in a few years, but it could have been better. The difference starts from the people, from different people…

Written by Majlinda Xhaferaj

Edited by Tom Sagiv

Cross- Edited by Maria Tirnovanu


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