Arabic in the Israeli Academy

Historical Absence, Current Challenges, and Future Possibilities

Muhammad Amara, Smadar Donitsa-Schmidt, Abd Al-Rahman Mar’i
Publisher Van Leer Institute Press
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2016
Series Manarat: The Van Leer Center for Jewish-Arab Relations

This is the first study to examine comprehensively the place and status of Arabic in Israeli academia. Given the place of Arabic in the public sphere in Israel in general, the study examined its status in the academic sphere. As part of this study, the researchers examined the presence—or absence—of Arabic both as a language used in lectures at conferences and as the language of instruction in courses, and as an official language on the websites of institutions of higher education.

The findings show that even today, seven decades after the establishment of the State of Israel, Arabic language and culture are almost totally absent from the Israeli academic sphere, and Arabic barely exists as an academic language. Even in the Arabic language departments the language of instruction is often Hebrew. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the Arab student, unlike the Jewish student, feels like a stranger in the Israeli academic space. This situation is dangerous both socially and academically, primarily if one considers the academy’s importance in creating the society’s future and the fact that the academic sphere is the main educational arena—in practice the only arena—in which Jews and Arabs study side by side. Therefore, it has the potential for promoting broad positive change and, in so doing, pointing to new horizons.

Consequently, according to the researchers, an effort should be made to promote the status of Arabic in this shared academic sphere and to make it more visible and more widely taught, because fair treatment of a language is tantamount to fair treatment of its speakers. The research concludes with both general and specific recommendations for raising the status of Arabic in Israel in general and in the academic sphere in particular.

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