The use of a puppet as a teaching tool is an important and central feature of the program.
Bentzi is a turtle puppet 'visiting' the children from Israel to teach them Hebrew.
He speaks and understands only Hebrew, and accompanies the children throughout the program.
Bentzi is curious, funny, asks lots of questions and is not afraid to make mistakes.
By using this playful communication we introduce the children to Hebrew, a new language, in a fun and developmentally appropriate manner.
Bentzi provides the children with opportunities to use the Hebrew they are learning outside of the formal Hebrew lesson. Teachers encourage the children to play with him during free play, take him home for Shabbat as a way to introduce their families to Hebrew and include him in a variety of activities.
One of the unique aspects of the Hebrew language is gender differentiation. In the early childhood classroom where most of the teachers are female, Bentzi is a male companion to the female teacher with whom she can demonstrate conversation using both gender forms.
We wanted a name that could connect the children to Israel and also a typical boy's name. Bentzi is from Israel, from Zion – so he is Ben-tzion, the son of Zion and in short – Bentzi.
Some of our pilot teachers provided Bentzi with a passport, a backpack full of interesting things from Israel, a hat or kippa or some other item of clothing that helps identify him as Israeli
Children love animals and especially turtles. Because of the turtles' qualities – house on his back, hard shell, slow pace and ability to hide inside its shell the turtle is a figure that enables expressive communication, a slow pace of speech and a legitimization of feeling shy.
Israel is home to a selection of turtles that can be found in cities, kibbutzim and villages. The turtle that served as the model for Bentzi is named "the commonly found turtle"