January 14, 2007 / 24 Tevet, 5767
Over 7,000 Jewish students from Israel’s North will learn Arabic in the framework of the Language as a Cultural Bridge project of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, with the assistance of the Jewish Agency for Israel, whose expansion plans were announced today.
Over 4,500 Jewish and Arab children will participate in activities and meetings to get to know one another, aimed at building trust between Jews and Arabs in mixed cities.
Starting in February of this year, over 7,000 Jewish grade school students will learn spoken Arabic as part of the Language as a Cultural Bridge project of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, with the assistance of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The annual cost of this Arabic studies project in northern Israel is about NIS 7 million.
The expansion of the Language as a Cultural Bridge project, which has been operating so far in a limited format, was announced by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski to a gathering of Jewish and Arab local authority heads in the Galilee, educators and representatives of the Education Ministry, during the tour of the area sponsored by the Abraham Fund Initiatives as part of the organization’s co-existence programs in the North.
“Among the Jewish Agency’s main goals is the building of an integrated Israeli society, in which all are equal,” said Bielski in his remarks.
Another project decided upon during the tour was the convening of joint Jewish-Arab activities for children from 20 pairs of Jewish and Arab elementary schools in mixed towns and rural regions. Over 4,500 pupils will participate in the meetings.
The Abraham Fund Initiatives welcomed the announcement. The fund’s Israeli director, Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, told tour participants that the Jewish Agency’s decision marks an important milestone in promoting the vision of peaceful co-existence in Israel. “There is a growing recognition among ever-widening circles both in Israel and in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, that the promotion of relations between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is a national interest of the highest priority for the future of the state and society in Israel.”
The Language as a Cultural Bridge project was developed and operated by the Abraham Fund Initiatives in order to contend with the continuing failures in the teaching of Arabic in Israel, and is based on a successful learning model that can be implemented throughout the country. The project includes the instilling of values of tolerance and cooperation and the shattering of stereotypes and prejudices towards Arabs.
The innovative curriculum developed by the Abraham Fund Initiatives is based on the teaching of the spoken language, combined with reading and writing studies. Another aspect is the exposure to the Arab culture through experience. The curriculum is taught in grades 5 and 6.