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The Website and Beyond: Making Connections
by Sara L. Shomron



Synopsis: This article will focus on the benefits and use of the website http://grainsofsand.insightonthenews.net/ , based on the historical novel GRAINS OF SAND: THE FALL OF NEVE DEKALIM, by Shifra Shomron, as an accessible educational resource, and as a tool for connecting people worldwide.


The internet is a valuable tool that can help promote better understanding, bridge differences between people, and reach individuals researching your subject anywhere in the world. The website accomplishes those objectives and more.

Sections of the site
The website was created for Shifra Shomron (at the time a teen author; today an elementary school English teacher and member of ETNI). Shifra's original goal was to promote and share the historical novel that she had written, as well as to provide a useful educational resource. The site makes the novel accessible to everyone, describing its development and the author's experiences. Today, Shifra writes a blog on the site to share some of her current experiences and challenges in teaching English.

Other sections of the website include Literature Study Guide and Reading Group Questions, in pdf format, available for free downloading and reproduction; Shifra's human interest articles, poetry, short story, play, translations, and interviews; book reviews; as well as videos that provide colorful images and allow the website visitor to see and hear Shifra herself talk about why she wrote her book.

An example of how the site was used outside of Israel
The website has reached distant and varied audiences. For example, Aaron B. was a 7th-grade student in New Jersey's Manalapan Englishtown Middle School. In working on a school history project, he chose as his topic The Upheaval Surrounding The Israeli Unilateral Withdrawal from the Gush Katif Region of the Gaza Strip. He ran a Google Search and discovered a radio interview on Israel National News, where Shifra discussed her book Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim. Aaron then googled Shifra's website. He contacted Shifra, corresponded with her, and interviewed her via email as another aspect of his research. His Gush Katif project earned a grade of 100 and was entered in the statewide "Conflict and Compromise" themed contest. At the New Jersey State Regional Qualifier (Rider University, April 30, 2008), Aaron's project In the Shadow of a World Destroyed: Memories of an Expelled Teenager was among the eight winning entries chosen from about 32 exhibits for the Individual Category, Junior Level (Grades 6-8). The exhibit featured Shifra's novel, and included past and present information about Gush Katif.
http://newstranscript.gmnews.com/news/2008/0430/front_page/007.html

Using the site for English teaching
Shifra's novel itself is also a useful resource for English teachers. It is a compelling story of unfulfilled dreams, loss, and hope, and brings to life a very turbulent time in Israel's history. Grains of Sand, written in English by a teen for teens, is told through the vantage point of teenager Efrat, a high school student dealing with her studies and bagrut (matriculation exams) while under the dual threat ofArab attacks and the government's plan leading up to losing her Gush Katif home, community, and land. She, along with family, friends, and neighbors try to lead ordinary lives as the ever-encroaching conflict gets closer, and the whole community joins efforts to save their beautiful towns from destruction.

The Israeli English high school teacher can use this book to generate classroom discussions by reading short chapters out loud, or the book can be suggested for supplementary reading, external reading, or as part of the Literature Program Log requirements.

The Literature Study Guide is a teaching resource appropriate for native English speakers and EFL, grades 7-12. The study guide provides challenging and exciting learning exercises, discussion topics, reading comprehension questions, classroom activities, research project ideas, and word games that encourage the student to think and evaluate the universal themes of identity, family, community, land, loss, fear, courage, and hope. It also includes background information about the novel along with historical information about the region.

See also Reading Group Questions

Inasmuch as the Israeli Ministry of Education officially recognizes "Gush Katif Day" in the school system, Grains Of Sand and its literature study guide provide suitable, relevant, and engaging material for classroom use.

Conclusion
A website is a readily accessible and wonderful tool to connect with people worldwide and help them learn about you and about Israel. This was shown by the Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim website. It fulfills a growing need for many people who don't have the time or ability to browse through book stores or libraries, or who simply find it easier to search online.

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