Jewish student takes notes in Arabic and Hebrew Languages
A survey of Israeli fifth grader attitudes towards Arabs in 2010 and 2012, revealed growing anti-Arab extremism in the student body of Israeli students. The exception to this trend was students who participated in the Ya Salam program,
in which students are taught spoken Arabic at school.
Increasing extremism among school-age children is due to the “continued deterioration in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel in recent years, which causes hate, fear and separatism,” according to a report by the Henrietta Szold Institute in Jerusalem.
The Arabic studies program “succeeded to a great extent in preventing the negative influence of anti-Arab opinion on the participants in the program.”
The Ya Salam curriculum for fifth- and sixth-grades is supposed to be the beginning of continued Arabic studies in junior high school (which in Israel starts in seventh grade).
Today, it is taught to some 23,000 students in Israel. About 100 teachers teach the program, the great majority of who are Arabs. For most of the Israeli students, it is their first meeting with an Arab under equal conditions Haaretz reports.
The report praises Ya Salam highly. It found that 91 percent of the principals are satisfied or very satisfied with the program as taught in their schools and recommend that it or a similar program, be included in the mandatory curriculum for all schools.
The Szold Institute report dedicates a separate section to how the program affected the opinions of students about Arabic language and culture. For example, among students who did not participate in the program, there was a drop in the numbers of those showing a positive attitude towards Arabs - including the willingness to have relationships with Arabs. But among those who participated in the program, not only were the opinions more positive, they also had less of a stereotypical view of Arabs.
“We tried to think of what is needed so Jews and Arabs can live together, and we thought that the lack of knowledge of the language is the first barrier to contact between people,” said Orna Simhon, head of the Education Ministry’s northern region. “At the same time, we are also strengthening the study of Hebrew in the Arab schools,” she said. Expanding the program to all of Israel would be the right thing to do Simhon told Haaretz.
But Komem added that the Israeli ministry is not budgeting adequate resources to implement it - and certainly not enough to expand it.