Language serves as a bridge among people; it furthers understanding and acceptance of each side and allows for a constant and constructive dialogue. Learning Arabic is important on national, local and individual levels. Learning spoken Arabic will give Jewish students in Haifa an advantage: on the one hand, it will allow them to better understand their Arab neighbors. On the other hand, it will deepen their identity as citizens of a pluralistic Jewish State.
There are many programs throughout Haifa’s school system that emphasize the importance of multiculturalism and Jewish-Arab coexistence. These programs emphasize sharing of culture and heritage, understanding better the self and the other. We suggest that the most important component in the establishment of constructive communication is the study of language. Most Arab students learn Hebrew throughout their studies in elementary and high school, but only a small minority of Jewish students is exposed to spoken Arabic.
Since young children tend to learn new languages faster, our project is intended for pupils in the first to sixth grade. A pilot of this program has been carried out on a modest scale in the city of Haifa and has proven very successful. Given this success, we would like to expand the pilot from one grade in five schools to more grades in the entire elementary school system.
Furthermore, we suggest that language acquisition should be accompanied by joint, Jewish-Arab, cross-cultural events. The main premise is to deepen cultural knowledge and make more meaningful the communication between Jews and Arabs.