Pilot Program Teaches Jewish Fifth-Graders Arabic

February 23, 2005

Source: Haaretz


On February 23, 2005 Haaretz reported, "A pilot project launched in February in 14 elementary schools in northern Israel is meant to bridge the deep divide between Jews and Arabs. Over the next two years, hundreds of Jewish fifth-graders will be taught conversational Arabic, and learn about Arab culture and traditions. The project, financed in part by the Abraham Fund, a U.S.-Israeli non-governmental group, focuses on Jewish children. Hebrew is mandatory in Israeli Arab schools and most Arab youngsters can speak the language to some degree by middle school. The main trigger for developing the new curriculum was rioting by Israeli Arabs in October 2000 in support of the Palestinian intifada in the West Bank and Gaza. Thirteen protesters were killed by police fire in what a government commission later ruled was excessive use of force. The riots deepened distrust, and local Jewish and Arab educators decided to step in, said Menachem Chishel, head of the education department in the Jewish town of Karmiel in the north. As a first step, they set up joint after-school programs for children from Karmiel and surrounding Arab towns. However, the language barrier proved a persistent problem."