Jews in Israel have very little knowledge of Arabic, and again and again we hear, “I studied Arabic but I don’t remember a thing.” This failure of Israel’s Jewish society is dangerous because it engenders negative stereotypes, hatred, and fear of Arabic-speakers in Israel and the entire Middle East. And this, in turn, leads to the disconnect between Jews and the Arabic language, between the official language of the state and its Jewish inhabitants, and other major problems. In recent years there has been a certain change for the better in the teaching of Arabic, in the form of new curricula, but even these curricula do not lead to a dramatic improvement in Jewish students’ command of Arabic. That is why there is a need for an alternative curriculum that will improve the teaching of the language.
Therefore, this project—taking off in early 2016 as a joint venture of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Abraham Fund Initiatives—has taken upon itself the task of creating an alternative curriculum for teaching Arabic in Jewish schools. The project’s aim is to influence the Ministry of Education’s policy on this topic and to propose a new way of learning spoken and literary Arabic from grades one to twelve. The curriculum will be offered to schools in Israel as a compulsory subject and will include reading and writing, as well as speech and oral comprehension, and will involve teachers whose mother tongue is Arabic. Members of the group—educators, experts on the Arabic language, researchers of language teaching, and other interested parties from the Ministry of Education and other relevant bodies will divide up into working groups to advance the writing of the curriculum. The multi-year alternative curriculum will be accompanied by an analysis of the situation in Israel and a discussion of how Arabic is studied worldwide, the history of Arabic study in Israel, and the conditions for creating a healthier and more affective space for teaching it.
The group heads are representatives of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Abraham Fund Initiatives.