When the new school year begins this year, 170 schools in Israel will begin teaching their fifth and sixth graders Arabic. I'm all for learning Arabic. In fact, one of Efrat's residents set up an Arabic course for adults this summer that was very well attended, and she intends to set up another one in the fall. (If you're interested and can travel to Gush Etzion, contact email@example.com. That was a public service announcement. :))
This decision should be applauded by all. Israelis should indeed know what the other half is saying in the streets, on their mosque loudspeakers, in the media and to their people.
The Jpost reported that "Dr. Shlomo Alon, supervisor of Arabic studies in the Education Ministry, explained that the reasoning behind the decision was rooted in the ministry’s understanding that knowledge of the Arabic language was vital for people who wished to live in the region in coexistence with Arab neighbors."
Coexistence! Something for which Israelis yearn. [Actually did you notice that we used to say "peaceful co-existence" and now we just say "coexistence".]
As Israel enters direct talks, coexistence what's on the mind of Israeli negotiators. "Let's just find a way to get along."
The Ministry of Education believes that having children speak Arabic will be step in the right direction.
Well, what does the Palestinian Authority believe? Is speaking Hebrew one of the priorities of the PA Education Ministry? Are children in Gaza, Judea and Samaria taught Hebrew to prepare them for co-existence? This is a question I have posed to Itamar Marcus, director of the Palestinian Media Watch - http://www.palwatch.org/. Experts in understanding the Palestinian Authority, through its media and its textbooks, Itamar will be able to tell us if the Arabs in PA territory are also spending millions of dollars to prepare their children for co-existence.
Meanwhile, yesterday the PA again renewed its threats about Arabs shopping in the Rami Levi supermarkets. Israel National News, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/, reported that the PA says that "purchasing anything from Rami Levi or any other Israeli business was against PA law, and a violation of the Authority's official business boycott of Israel."
For those hungry for co-existence, http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/05/hungry-for-co-existence.html, shopping together, passing the yogurts and comparing nectarines is a good first step. But this is a step the PA rejects. So, who knows what will be with Hebrew in its schools?
Speaking the Same Language
When we're wondering if we can find agreement on an issue with another person, we use the figurative expression, "Are we speaking the same language??" Israel has taken the figurative and turned it literal. Will the PA do the same?
PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH ANSWERS:
PMW answered Voices question immediately. As you see in comments, here is their response, "Hebrew is taught in the schools in East Jerusalem, since they belong to the Israeli education system. In the PA schools in the West Bank and in Gaza, Hebrew is not taught as a subject in the schools. Several courses are offered for adults."
Perhaps Dr. Shlomo Alon, supervisor of Arabic studies in the Israeli Education Ministry, should speak to his PA counterpart, the supervisor of Israeli studies, if it exists, and strongly suggest that in order for them to foster coexistence in their schools as well, they should begin teaching Hebrew too.