President Reuven Rivlin invited Arab Hebrew teacher Jehan Jaber to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday as part of an effort to promote intercultural education among the Jews and Arabs of Israel.
The elementary school instructor, from the town of Taibe in a predominantly Arab part of Israel, has become a familiar face in Israeli households over the past several weeks thanks to a video of her teaching her students Hebrew with the help of a darbuka drum and the catchy song “Geshem, Geshem Metaftef” (“Rain, rain is dripping”).
Though, Jaber told Channel 2, she had no intention of sharing the footage on social media, a friend posted the clip to YouTube last month and it has since received over a million and a half views, reaching the top-five most trending videos list in Israel.
Accompanied by her family as well as the mayor of Taibe, Jaber presented Rivlin with a darbuka imprinted with the message “To President Rivlin with gratitude.”
Rivlin thanked Jaber for her efforts to help bridge the gap between Arab and Jewish cultures, and the pair sang an encore rendition of “Geshem, Geshem Metaftef” followed by a Purim song based on a Talmudic aphorism, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin Besimcha” (“When Adar begins, joy is increased”).
The one-day Jewish festival of Purim begins Saturday night in much of the world, and on Sunday night in a handful of ancient walled cities, notably Jerusalem.
The president made a point of recognizing the disparity in the percentages of Jewish students who learn Arabic as opposed to the higher rates of Arab students who learn Hebrew.
In Arabic, Rivlin proclaimed, “We must learn Arabic” — to which Jaber responded in Hebrew, “We must learn Hebrew.”
Rivlin’s wife Nechama made an appearance toward the end of the gathering, telling Jaber that she was deeply moved by her video, calling it a “major contribution for peace between the two nations.”
The original clip spawned a plethora of remakes by Jewish admirers as well as those mocking Jaber’s distinctive Arabic accent. The popular satirical program “Eretz Nehederet” spoofed the Taibe educator, changing the words of the rain song to mock Israel’s politicians and criticize inequality in the country.