Israeli Students to Partake in Arabic Studies



By: SAMMY HUDES  
Published: August 24th 2010
in News » Israel

Arabic alphabet.

This upcoming school year, Arabic language and culture studies will be made mandatory at 170 public and religious-public Israeli schools, starting from the fifth grade. The initiative, called “Ya Salam” will debut in Haifa, and other northern Israeli schools, where the Arab population is most prominent. The rest of the country will reportedly soon adopt the plan, as well.

 

Until now, Arabic courses were optional to Israelis between the seventh and tenth grades as an elective to fulfill a requirement to study a second language. Other options were Amharic, Russian and French. This new policy was sparked by an increasing number of Israeli students who have chosen to study Arabic. In 2000, there was a total of 1,506 students who selected Arabic as their elective. By 2010, the tally had grown to 2,187, or 60 per cent of the students. In addition, hundreds of other students chose a separate course, entitled “The Arab World and Islam.”

 

Education officials are hoping that this new program well help create a cultural bridge and promote tolerance between Arabs and Jews. “We live in a country that has two official languages,” Dr. Shlomo Alon, Head of Arabic and Islam Education in the Ministry of Education, told the Walla news website. “Studying Arabic will promote tolerance and convey a message of acceptance.” He also added that “the state aspires to complete equality of citizenship. We will not deal with conflicts based on cultural identity.”

 

Currently, there are approximately 1,000 Arabic teachers in Israel, however most are Jewish. This year, 50 Arab teachers will begin teaching oral and written Arabic, as well as literature.

 

“Every Arab student studies Hebrew, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be the opposite way around,” said Orna Simchon of the Education Ministry’s northern district. “The aim is to turn the language into a cultural bridge – a means of communication. It is extremely important that every child come to know the language and the culture and thus communicate, hold conversations, and be tolerant in this country.”



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