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Story Of An American Peace Corp From Indianapolis Teaching English In Rural Rwanda

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From the suburbs of Indiana, USA, to Karambo sector, Matt Ross 33, has been inspired by very hard working Rwandans despite existing challenges.

Ross is part of the Peace Corps, a volunteer  program run by the  United States government. Its activities include providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries.

He teaches English at Karambo primary school, in Gakenke District, where he caught up with Taarifa’s Magnus Mazimpaka, to share his experience on working in Rwanda’s countryside.

Below is an excerpt of the interview.

Matt Ross: My name is Matt Ross. I am from Indiana, United States of America. I am here with the United States Peace Corps working as an English teacher volunteer but I also teach a little bit of history.

How did you end up here?

Matt Ross: Actually, I got my Master’s Degree in teaching English as a second language and the Peace Corps has a program called Peace Corps Master’s International. I studied for ten months in Gonzaga University, then I came here to get some practical experience.

You ended up in Karambo Sector, Gakenke District which is almost a two- hour drive from Kigali City. How did you find yourself here?

Matt Ross: Peace Corps works in a lot of communities especially in more rural places. And actually I asked them if there is a place that was not quite as hot as in Rwamagana’s training facilities. So, they put me in the north and it has been very nice.

How long have you been living here for?

Matt Ross: It will be two years next month.

How do you describe this situation and the environment you are in?

Matt Ross: Especially the people here, they are more and more hospitable villagers. You know as a foreigner, you always have some kind of problems. It is difficult to adapt and communicate. I study Kinyarwanda with my friend Anasthase who has been trying to to teach me Kinyarwanda, some French and Swahili. And I hope to get a lot of experience.

Can you speak some Kinyarwanda now?

Matt Ross: Yes, I can try! Nitwa Matayo mfite imyaka mirongo itatu n’itatu.

Can you describe the facilities around compared to where you live?

Matt Ross: Back in America I lived in suburbs. It is a house in a very wide yard though most people do not garden. Here, there is no paved road that leads to it, so I have to take a “motto” which I never did before I came to Rwanda. So it is a very interesting experience for the first time.

What is the most emotional part of the whole experience?

Matt Ross: I think it is that of seeing the children working very hard. I taught for many years in Japan and they have textbooks and everything so students are able to excel. But here in the situation the students are somehow struggle to improve their English very much considering the difficulties that we sometimes have here.

What about the rural area? The folks around here. How do they treat you, do you hang out, and go to bars?

Matt Ross: I shop a little bit; I have been to the bars a few times. People, as I said, are very welcoming but they are also very curious. They like to ask many questions and sometimes I do not always understand the Kinyarwanda they use.

What is the most memorable part when you leave this place?

Matt Ross:When I leave this place, I think it is the idea that Rwandan people work very hard to try and improve their lives.I see them overcome a lot of challenges, the things that when I want to give up because it is so difficult. But people here continue to work without any problem.It is just amazing.

Can you mention some of them?

Matt Ross: The biggest struggle is that the electricity would turn off frequently. And if it is off for a few hours I started to think that it would not come back. I wonder whether I would be able to cook tonight or see because it’s dark. So I had to use a flashlight and I worried about it a lot. They brought flashlights and candles and everything was OK until the power was back. So it is not something that I am used to in America.

 

 

People

Paris Mayor Anne Wants To Become France’s President

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Paris Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Sunday threw her hat in the ring for France’s 2022 presidential elections, though polls indicate she faces an uphill battle unless she can unite the fractured political left.

“Knowing the seriousness of our times and to give hope to our lives, I have decided to be candidate for the French presidency,” the 62-year-old said, surrounded by supporters and her campaign team in the Normandy city of Rouen.

“Today, I am ready.”

Hidalgo, who was elected to a second mayoral term in June, will need to go through an internal primary vote of Socialist Party (PS) members at the end of the month before she is confirmed.

She faces potential competition from Le Mans Mayor Stéphane Le Foll, but has the backing of PS first secretary Olivier Faure.

Hidalgo also joins a long list of candidates on the divided French left that include Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the far-left France Unbowed party, Fabien Roussel, head of the Communist Party and Arnaud Montebourg, a former PS minister who will not take part in the party’s primary.

Popularity polls

An Ipsos poll this month gave Hidalgo a popularity rating of 9 percent, which put her in fifth position compared to other presidential hopefuls.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity saw a small boost.

Seven months out from presidential elections, Ipsos said Macron remained in a “much better position” than his two predecessors at the same stage of their five-year terms.

 

RFI

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People

Talibans Are Descendants of Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

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With the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban just shy of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the world’s attention has once again turned to Afghanistan.

Tucked away in south-central Asia, with unsavory neighbors such as Iran to the west and Pakistan to the east, the landlocked country, which once served as a base of operations for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, is as beguiling as it is complex.

And yet amid its turbulent past, in which it has served as a flashpoint for the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the United States, Afghanistan has long been home to one of the more intriguing unsolved mysteries of Jewish history: the fate of some of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Periodically over the past two decades, newspaper headlines have raised the tantalizing question of whether the Pashtun tribes who make up most of the Taliban are in fact our long-lost relatives, descendants of the Israelites who were cast into exile by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago.

While the possibility of such a connection may strike some as fanciful, a cursory look at the evidence suggests that it cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand.

The Pashtuns, or Pathans, are said to number in the tens of millions, with the bulk living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. They consist of several hundred clans and tribes that have fiercely preserved their heritage amid waves of foreign conquest and occupation.

Prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, many of the Pashtuns declared themselves to be what they referred to as Bani Israel (Sons of Israel), an oral tradition that their ancestors passed down through the generations.

This was noted by various Islamic travelers and historians, stretching as far back as the 13th century, when there was hardly any advantage to be gained by asserting an ancient Israelite identity in Central Asia.

Over the next 400 years, other Islamic scholars and writers noted the persistence of the tradition.

In the 19th century, a number of Westerners who visited the region became convinced that the Pashtuns were in fact descendants of the Israelites.

In his 1858 work, History of the Afghans, Joseph-Pierre Ferrier wrote that the chief of one of the main Pashtun tribes, the Yusefzai (Sons of Joseph), presented the Persian shah Nader Shah Afshar “with a Bible written in Hebrew and several other articles that had been used in their ancient worship and which they had preserved.”

Similarly, Major Henry W. Bellew, who served in the British colonial Indian army, in his 1861 work The Lost Tribes, wrote regarding the Pashtuns that, “The nomenclature of their tribes and districts, both in ancient geography, and at the present day, confirms this universal natural tradition. Lastly, we have the route of the Israelites from Media to Afghanistan and India marked by a series of intermediate stations bearing the names of several of the tribes and clearly indicating the stages of their long and arduous journey.”

More recently, the late president of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, in his 1957 study about far-flung Jewish communities The Exiled and the Redeemed, devoted an entire chapter to “Afghan tribes and the traditions of their origin.”

Basing himself on scholarly research, as well as on interviews he conducted with numerous Afghani Jews who made aliyah in the 1950s, Ben-Zvi wrote, “The Afghan tribes, among whom the Jews have lived for generations, are Moslems who retain to this day their amazing tradition about their descent from the Ten Tribes.”

While he cautiously notes that, “the evidence in our possession is, of course, insufficient for practical conclusions to be drawn therefrom,” he nonetheless correctly asserts, “The fact that this tradition, and no other, has persisted among these tribes is itself a weighty consideration.”

Modern-day scholars have added greatly to our stock of knowledge on this subject. Dr. Navraz Aafreedi, an Indian academic in Kolkata who hails from a Pashtun background, has written extensively and persuasively about the evidence of an Israelite connection, and Dr. Eyal Be’eri, the leading Israeli scholar on the Pashtuns, has recorded a series of their customs and traditions that are identical to those of Jews.

These include practices such as circumcision on the eighth day after birth, refraining from mixing meat and milk, lighting candles on the eve of the Sabbath and even levirate marriage.

Other scholars have noted similarities between the Pashtun’s ancient tribal code, the Pashtunwali, and Jewish traditions.

While DNA studies have provided limited evidence to back up these assertions, a 2017 article in the journal Mitochondrial DNA did find there to be “a genetic connection of Jewish conglomeration in Khattak tribe,” one of the Pashtun clans.

And although the Taliban have done a great deal to erase any trace of their pre-Islamic history, the tradition refuses to die.

As Hebrew University anthropologist Dr. Shalva Weil has noted regarding the Pashtuns’ link with the lost tribes of Israel, “There is more convincing evidence” about them than anybody else.

This fascinating historical curiosity, however, should not blind us to the fact that the Taliban are viciously anti-Israel and no Pashtuns are known to have shown any public interest in returning to their Jewish roots.

Indeed, as Dr. Be’eri has argued, even if the Pashtuns are biologically and historically connected with the people of Israel, it still does not mean that “tomorrow they will convert to Judaism and come to live in the Land of Israel.”

Merely talking about “mass conversion and migration of millions of Pashtuns from Afghanistan and India into the State of Israel,” he has written, could damage prospects for building greater regional cooperation and understanding.

There are, of course, other theories regarding the origins of the Pashtuns as well as scholars who discount or reject the contention of an ancient Israelite connection.

But given the Pashtuns’ ancient civilization and far-flung diaspora, and their key political and demographic role in various parts of the Asian subcontinent, it would seem prudent for the Jewish people to seek out avenues of dialogue with them if and wherever feasible.

The mere possibility of a shared historical identity could serve as a basis for discussion between Jews and Pashtuns, one that could lead to a dampening of hostility and suspicion and perhaps lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship in the future.

In light of their fanatical theology, the Taliban are of course not an address for such efforts. But there are plenty of other Pashtuns worldwide with whom we should seek to build bridges, whether or not one believes them to be our long-lost cousins.

 

The writer is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other hidden Jewish communities.

 

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Rwanda Mourns Hip-Hop Maestro Jay Polly

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Rwandans woke up to very sad news on Thursday following the untimely death of Hip-hop maestro Jay Polly (true name Tuyishime Joshua).

According to various local media reports, Polly died at Muhima Hospital where he had been admitted pending uncofirmed illness.

Polly a pioneer in Rwanda’s Hip-hop music has been serving a prison sentence at Nyarugenge central Prison usually known as Mageragere but had been conditionally released days ago.

Polly and his accomplices had been battling a court case over consumption of drugs and was scheduled to apear before public for hearing.

Meanwhile, on August 4, 2018, Polly was arrested in connection with beating up his wife and breaking her three teeth and damaging her expensive iPhone.

Polly and his wife had spent the night at a bar and on returning home together, a fight erupted. He was arrested and detained but days later, his wife decided to meet him and the two agreed to settle their difference amicably before the case would proceed to court for hearing.

Polly then agreed to buy three gold teeth to replace the broken ones that his wife lost. He also agreed to buy her a new iPhone.

The hip-hop star has been a darling to rap enthusiasts that love nearly every song he released.

 

Jay Polly Beats Wife, Breaks Her 3 Teeth

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