Courses

Arabic Week on the Jerusalem Light Rail

On many modes of public transport in Israel – at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on the Israel Railways – you hear announcements in Hebrew and English. But not Arabic. Even though a full 20% of Israeli citizens – and over 30% of Jerusalem residents – speak Arabic as their mother tongue, and even though Arabic is an official language in Israel. (And English isn’t).

Yet on the Light Rail in Jerusalem – reflecting Jerusalem’s unique makeup in which 37% of the city’s residents are native Arabic-speakers – all signage and announcements are in English, Hebrew and Arabic equally. As our director Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir said recently in this article on Tablet, “the light rail is the spine of Jerusalem’s tolerant tendency.”

This week, we, together with Citypass, the company that operates the Light Rail, and Madrasa, a free web based school for spoken Arabic, went one – or several – steps further. Introducing: Arabic Week on the Jerusalem Light Rail! There were posters in the stations, the ticket-checkers have been handing out phrase books with words and phrases. It’s been one big Arabic celebration!

'Have a good trip!' in Hebrew and Arabic

‘Have a good trip!’ in Hebrew and Arabic

Here’s a video from the launching of Arabic week, at the Davidka Square station in downtown Jerusalem:

There’s also the official video made by the Citypass company (in Hebrew and Arabic):

There were even free Arabic lessons at the Citypass service center in downtown Jerusalem, including by our own Suha, veteran Arabic teacher in our Language Center.

Arabic lesson with Suha (photo: Yisrael Weil)

Arabic lesson with Suha (photo: Yisrael Weil)

We’re proud that this week had its roots at the JICC – some of the Citypass managers are studying Arabic with us this year, and got the idea both from the Arabic week at the Knesset during the same week, as well as from our own Arabic week in late March. (See here for more about that.) You can download the entire phrasebook here. You can see the posters that were hung in the train stations here. There is also an online quiz game in Hebrew and Arabic, which you can play here.

Example of one of the posters. Did you know that the word "blouse" is also used in Arabic?

Example of one of the posters. Did you know that the word “blouse” is also used in Arabic?

Just one more example, making Jerusalem the World Capital of Tolerance!

Many thanks to Citypass, the company that operates the Light Rail, and to Madrasa, a free web based school for spoken Arabic, our partners in action. And many thanks as well to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York and the Natan Fund for their ongoing support of the Language Center and for our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance.

Want to read more about Arabic Week? Below is the full text of the Tablet article. You can read the online version here. The week was also covered in the Hebrew-language Ha’aretz daily newspaper (You can read that article here), and in the local Jerusalem newspaper (Hebrew article here). There was another Hebrew-language article on the Mako news site, as well as this article, from a second local Jerusalem newspaper. Arabic Week was also covered on the Al-Monitor web site, which seeks to cover news from all over the Middle East.  The text of the article follows the Tablet piece.

The Tablet article:

Jerusalem’s Light Rail Has New Destination: Teaching Arabic

With coexistence in mind, the train’s operators will dedicate July to encouraging Israelis to open up to a language too few speak

Many Israelis feel frustrated with their inability to communicate with their Palestinian neighbors in Arabic. But now they have a chance to practice their salaam aleikums at any Jerusalem tram stop.

Citypass, Jerusalem’s light rail operator, has declared the first week of July “the Arabic language week on the light rail.” Signs explaining the Arabic equivalent of “validate your ticket” and “have a safe ride” have been placed at stops along the tram’s red line, which stretches from Yad Vashem in the southwest to Pisgat Ze’ev in the northeast. Passengers can also register for free colloquial Arabic lessons at the company’s service center downtown, to better understand the Arabic pamphlets handed out by ticket conductors throughout the week.

In Jerusalem’s largely segregated public-transportation system, the tram already stands out as a binational and bilingual oasis. With three stops in Arab East Jerusalem, the tram has become an essential means of transport for the city’s 330,000 Arab residents, who comprise 37 percent of Jerusalem’s total population.

Unlike the national rail system and Jerusalem’s bus service, stop names are announced in Arabic on the tram, as well as in Hebrew and in English. That’s not self-evident. In 2011, member of Knesset Lia Shemtov of Yisrael Beiteinu demanded that Arabic be removed from the trams, arguing that “united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. Why instate this precedent now?” City Hall rebuffed her claim, saying that “the light rail serves all Jerusalem residents, Jews and Arabs alike.”

“We thought it would be nice to expose the Jewish public to the Arabic language,” said Yaron Ravid, CEO of Citypass. “We employ people from East Jerusalem both in operations and maintenance, and make an effort to reach out to the Arab community.”

Ravid said his company goes to great lengths to make information accessible to passengers in Arabic on its website and Facebook page, trying to cater to the special needs of Muslim residents.

“On Ramadan we put our trams at the disposal of worshipers on Temple Mount,” he said. “On Thursday evenings throughout that month our employees distributed dates and water at our stops. We do nice things.”

Vida, a veiled woman from the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Ghosh working in Citypass’ customer service, said she was excited about her language being celebrated on the streets of West Jerusalem.

“It will do a lot for Arab-Jewish coexistence in Jerusalem,” she opined. “Today we have ticket conductors who speak both Arabic and Hebrew, so people on the train don’t face any language barrier.”

Like the rest of Jerusalem, the light rail has also suffered from political violence in recent years. During riots following the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists in July 2014, three East Jerusalem stops were vandalized and set aflame. Arab residents sporadically hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at trams traveling through the neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, often halting service across town. Most recently, in April 2017, visiting British student Hannah Bladon was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist.

But at the Arabic-language-week launch at Davidka Square the atmosphere was festive. A teenager dressed in a lion costume—the city’s symbol—was handing out ice pops to passersby, as a musical group played traditional Palestinian music outside the company’s main service center.

“Jerusalem has experienced difficult times, but contrary to its public image, Jerusalemites really believe in the value of tolerance,” said Hagai Agmon-Snir, director of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on Mount Zion, whose Arabic teachers will offer free classes to passengers.

According to a poll carried out by the Intercultural Center ahead of Jerusalem Day last month, 82 percent of Jerusalem residents said they were pleased with the city’s ethnic diversity, with 96 percent reporting daily exposure to people of a different religion or national group.

“There are currently very few reports of hate crimes on the tram,” Agmon-Snir added. “The tram is like the spine of Jerusalem’s tolerant tendency.”

Mordechai Friedman, 24, dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb, was collecting brochures specifying the many achievements of Citypass, while teaching Hebrew speakers how to say “it’s like Europe here” and “let’s sit over there” in Palestinian dialect.

“It’s a wonderful initiative,” Friedman said. “I work with people from East Jerusalem, but unfortunately don’t speak Arabic.”

“It’s always interesting to learn about other cultures,” he added. “I think we could solve many problems if we had a common language. I think we should teach Arabic to pupils just like we teach English, starting from kindergarten.”

 

From Al-Monitor:

ISRAEL PULSE

Jerusalem tram seeks to fast track Arabic learning for Israeli Jews

Jerusalem Light Rail launched an initiative this week to promote Arabic language learning among Israelis in the city. It’s the first such campaign in the tram system’s seven years of operation.

Although around 20% of Israel’s population is Arab, Arabic comprehension among Israeli Jews is very low. A survey published July 4 by Israeli-Arab coexistence group Sikkuy found that a mere 8.6% of Israeli Jewish adults have a working knowledge of Arabic compared to more than 60% with the same competence in English.

The tram, which began operating in 2011, runs through the heart of the contested holy city, from Jewish neighborhoods in the west to Palestinian neighborhoods in the east. Along the way, it passes the Old City with its holy sites, the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market, Palestinian refugee camps and Israeli settlements. Though construction of the light rail was fiercely opposed by Palestinians, it has become the city’s main artery, carrying about 160,000 passengers a day, a large portion of them Palestinian residents of the city.

Jerusalem is Israel’s most populous city, home to 856,000 people, around 40% of them Palestinians. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war and annexed it, a move unrecognized by the overwhelming majority of the international community. Palestinian East Jerusalemites have residency, but not citizenship. The Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

The campaign to promote Arabic is being sponsored by the privately owned CityPass, which operates the light rail, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC) and Madrasa, an online Arabic school for Hebrew speakers. JICC director Hagai Agmon-Snir called Jerusalem a “center of tolerance” in the day-to-day lives of Jews and Arabs, a fact sometimes obscured by occasional outbreaks of violence.

“A short ride on the train shows that there are passengers of every sort on the train. There are Jews and Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, secular, religious, Muslims, Christians, Armenians, tourists, young and old, students,” CityPass spokesman and marketing director Ozel Vatik told Al-Monitor. With the train serving all the city’s populations, he said, the initiative’s goal is to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.

East Jerusalemites have greater exposure to Hebrew in their daily lives — as some 35,000 work in the western part each day, Agmon-Snir said — than Jewish Israelis have to Arabic. He said that the project’s aim is to cultivate familiarity and respect among Israelis for the Arabic language and Arabic speakers.

For Arabic Language Week, ticket inspectors have been handing out booklets with words and phrases in Arabic along with their Hebrew translations. Although some of the phrase book’s expressions are useful, teaching Hebrew-speaking passengers polite expressions, such as “Pardon me” and “Would you like my seat?,” others are questionable. “It’s like Europe here” and “How nice it is to sit in the air conditioning,” have little practical use and are more likely to cause puzzlement.

CityPass also sponsored two free Arabic-language courses at one of the central stations outside Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market. They were booked beyond capacity.

Posters featuring Arabic words along with their Hebrew pronunciation and explanations are being displayed at stations throughout the city. Some of the posters were defaced within days at several East Jerusalem stations along the city’s traditional divide. In one instance, the Arabic words for “light rail” were crossed out and the “Arabs out” scrawled in Hebrew below it.

Jerusalem Light Rail prides itself on being the only public transportation system in Israel that broadcasts announcements and posts notices in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Vatik told Al-Monitor that the rationale behind Arabic Language Week was to help bridge the language barrier separating Palestinian and Israeli residents of the city.

Most East Jerusalemites who spoke to Al-Monitor outside the Damascus Gate were unaware of the campaign. Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an engineering student from East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood, told Al-Monitor that while the intent of the Arabic campaign was positive, its execution could have been better.

“Look at this poster. One word of Arabic and nothing else,” Abu Khdeir remarked, pointing to a sign explaining the Arabic word for meat. “There’s no way to know what this is about.”

Asked what Arabic phrases he thought Israelis should know, he paused pensively before replying, “Nobody has ever asked me that before.” He suggested that the light rail try a similar initiative to help East Jerusalemites learn Hebrew. Hebrew is not taught in East Jerusalem schools, which have a Jordanian curriculum, but a growing number of East Jerusalemites are investing in learning the language to help them navigate life with Israeli Jews.

Vatik said he has received a lot of feedback from Arabic Facebook users on the CityPass site asking for a Hebrew-language initiative, and he hopes to launch one in the near future.

“In the end, we’re riding together, and we live together in this city, and it’s not a bad thing to be familiar with the other’s language. I think there’s a lot of good in it,” Vatik said.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
2018-07-14T06:46:11+00:00July 7th, 2018|Blog, Courses, Language Center, Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem|

Arabic Language Week at the JICC

Our Arabic language classes are learning exciting things all the time. One of the highlights of the past year has been the Arabic Language Week, which took place – all in Arabic – right before the classes went on spring break.

Here’s a summary of all the events:

Sunday, March 18 featured a lecture by Dr. Sarah Abu-Kaf, from the Umm Betin village in the Negev, the first clinical psychologist in the Bedouin community in Israel. Dr. Abu-Kaf is a lecturer in psychology at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. She spoke, in Arabic, to levels 3,4 and 5 about the situation of Arab – and Bedouin – students at Israeli universities.

Dr. Sarah Abu Khaf lecturing

Dr. Sarah Abu Kaf lecturing

On Monday, March 19, our own Dr. Anwar Ben Badis led a tour from the First Train Station along the Railway Park for levels 1 and 2, for more than 70 people.

On Tuesday, March 20, Dr. Ben Badis led a second tour, this time to to the libraries and music center on Salah a-Din and Al-Zahra Streets. This tour was for levels 3,4 and 5 – more than 60 people took part.

Tour of library and music center, East Jerusalem

Tour of library and music center, East Jerusalem

On Wednesday, March 21, May Arow, Director of the Ya Sala’am program at the Abraham Fund Initiatives, spoke to some 20 people. Ya Sala’am is a program that places Arab teachers in Jewish elementary schools to teach Arabic language to 5th and 6th grade students. She spoke about her experiences as an Arab teacher in a Jewish school.

May lecture

May lecture

Looks interesting? We’ve already opened registration for next year’s classes! Here’s the link (on our Hebrew web site).

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continuing support of our Arabic Language Center.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Learning Arabic with Experience – Our Own Anwar Ben Badis featured in the Times of Israel

On Sunday, January 21, 2018, one of our veteran Arabic teachers, Dr. Anwar Ben Badis, was featured in an article in the Times of Israel news site. Below is the text, here is a link to the original article (and here is a link to a .pdf version). Looking to learn Arabic yourself? Our classes are full this year, but watch our website (https://jicc.org.il/heb/center-for-arabic-instruction/) for further details for next year!

Anwar Ben-Badis

Anwar Ben-Badis

Al-salam alaikum! Is it finally time for Israelis to learn Arabic?

Teachers and language schools are noticing a rise in the number of locals learning Arabic, although attitudes and angles depend on who’s teaching, and where

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis (emphasis ours) has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.

 There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.
There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

 

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

“It’s a complicated story why Jews don’t speak Arabic,” said Olmert. “Our idea was that we needed to do it with joy, not because we have to, or because it’s the right thing to do.”

Ben Israel thinks one reason for the heightened interest is the TV show “Fauda,” about an undercover army unit that operates in the Palestinian territories. All the operatives speak Arabic fluently, and Arabic is regularly heard on the show.

“’Fauda’ was a big thing, it created a lot of buzz,” said Ben Israel. “It’s now cool to speak Arabic; young people see these undercover guys and they’re singing a song in Arabic and it’s something they want to emulate.”

That wasn’t the case when he was a kid. Ben Israel, now 38, first learned Arabic in high school from a female soldier, which seemed reasonable at the time but later didn’t make sense to him.

“The militaristic connotations of learning Arabic aren’t normal,” he said.

He wants the study of Arabic to help young Israelis think about a civil shared society, and see Arabic as a language of peace, not of war.

Ditto for the teachers he employs, who are native Arabic speakers.

Amal Gaoui, a student at Tel Aviv University who teaches at Tel Aviv’s Gavrieli elementary school, likes that her young students, fourth graders, don’t come with any preconceived notions.

That is, for the most part. When she taught them the term “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great” and is often heard in conjunction with terrorist attacks, the students all looked at each other and laughed, said Gaoui. “They said, ‘Hamas says that.’”

This led to a conversation about good people and bad people. “It’s not just learning words,” she said, “but to understand why we’re learning this language.”

Ben Israel often hires Arab women working from home to teach in his online school.

“They’re making a living, and they now have this relationship with Jews,” he said. “At the schools, for the vast majority of the pupils, it’s actually the first time they’ve had any meaningful relationship with Arabs at all.”

Canadian immigrant Lee Gancman teaches Arabic to small groups of adults through the language school he founded, Damascus Gate. Gancman learned Arabic in college, later attending programs in Jordan and Damascus before making his way to Israel.

His students are Jewish Jerusalemites, who want to converse with vendors at the Mahane Yehuda market or chat about the weather with their butcher.

When Gancman advertises on Secret Jerusalem, an open Facebook group known for a startling array of posts on everything from finding bacon in Jerusalem to finding owners for stray dogs, he ends up with long threads about why people want to learn Arabic.

“You’d be surprised by the students,” he said.

It’s his religiously observant students who come into contact with Arabic speakers more often, generally in the Old City, said Gancman. “Secular students say, “‘I don’t know where to find Arabs.’”

Who’s your teacher?

The Jerusalem municipality’s Arabic teachers are Jewish, professional instructors who have been teaching the language for years, said van der Hoven.

When prospective students ask Ha-ambatia’s Olmert about his Arabic teachers, he tells them, “Our teachers speak Arabic as their native tongue. I’m not about race.”

About half of the students at Ha-ambatia are descendants of families where Arabic was one of the language and want to connect to their roots, said Olmert.

At the same time, while a fifth of Israel’s population speaks Arabic, the book most commonly used to teach spoken Arabic was written in the 1960s by a French priest, he pointed out.

“It’s actually a really nice book; he is a real lover of the language,” he said. But it’s written in Hebrew phonetics, which creates difficulties, he noted.

“It’s an exhausting process to learn a language,” said Olmert, who comes to the teaching of language through his study of French literature, and nine years of living in Paris. “There are the problems and paradoxes of learning spoken Arabic; Arabic is the language that’s everywhere and nowhere. We want our students to be able to speak and not get too caught up in the rules.”

Back in Jerusalem, Ben-Badis doesn’t shy away from the politics of learning Arabic; perhaps it’s the stubborn Jerusalemite in him.

He believes his native tongue should only be taught by native Arabic speakers who also understand the Israeli character.

“You’re teaching not just the language, but the culture,” he pointed out. “We’re in a particular region; the minute an Israeli Jews decides to learn Arabic, it’s not just a language, it’s a culture, it’s holidays, it’s the everyday stuff. They have no idea.”

This linguist, a PhD from Hebrew University who also interprets and teaches Aramaic, is unusually equipped to handle the Israeli student.

Raised in the north by his Muslim mother and Christian Arab father, Ben-Badis headed to Jerusalem for college, the city his mother hailed from, where his maternal grandfather studied at Hebrew University when classes were being held in Kiryat Moriah.

He lives in the neighborhood of Baka, up the block from his grandmother’s original stone house on Yehuda Street, now situated next to a Bnei Akiva youth group center and two religious Jewish public schools.

“My connection to this place isn’t as a visitor. I’m a son of this place. I know almost every corner of this city,” he said.

He is married to a Jewish American woman who was raised in Israel, and his father-in-law is a Reform rabbi actively engaged in interreligious peace building. Their 3-year-old daughter speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English, and Ben-Badis introduces her to his classes as “100 percent mixed, not half and half.”

“Jerusalem is exactly my daughter with all its shades,” he said. “We’re very tied to this city because we’re very similar to it, and therefore very close to it. I didn’t choose Jerusalem.”

He teaches Arabic with a similar flavor, “with his truth,” he said.

For most Arabic teachers, it’s a challenge to work with Jewish Israelis because it’s difficult to deal with Israeli chutzpah, particularly during stressful times when there are attacks or wars.

“Israelis don’t like to listen, they don’t like to be told what to do, they think they know everything,” said Ben-Badis. “I treat them like students. It’s not easy to learn a language, and I demand a lot. It creates a lot of back and forth and we work hard. But they’re not the boss here, I am.”

One student, a retired army colonel, told Ben-Badis he gave directions to Arabs his whole life and it wasn’t natural for him to reverse the process. Sometimes a student will ask Ben-Badis to write something on the board, but will say it in Hebrew, in the form of a command, and Ben-Badis won’t follow those orders.

“The powers are different in here and that’s how we progress,” he said. “I am who I am here. I’m Anwar, and I use my language as a resistance, to protect my identity.”

When he speaks Hebrew, it’s with a lilting set of rolling ‘r’s and harsh ‘ayin’ pronunciations, as he deliberately brings an Arabic flavor to the Jewish language.

“I don’t hide my Arabness — I show it everywhere,” he said.

He was once attacked on an Egged bus while speaking Arabic with his nephew. When his brother, a doctor in Haifa, went to help at a Gazan hospital during the 2014 war, Ben-Badis showed his students the WhatsApp texts he received from him, leading to difficult conversations and reactions.

An Israeli policeman was once sent to Ben-Badis’ classroom to check that he wasn’t teaching anything insubordinate.

None of it has stopped Ben-Badis from trying to expose as much of his culture as possible.

When his own parents were younger, Ben-Badis used to send students to spend the night at their house in order to speak Arabic and be exposed to their way of life. They often came back saying, “We never knew Arabs were like this.’”

“The meeting of Israelis with Arabic is more than a language class if the teacher is an Arab, it exposes them to the culture and realities of life,” he said.

In the Classroom

It’s 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, which means it’s almost time for the second class of the day at Jerusalem’s Islamic Art Museum, the elegant, art-filled building in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, where Ben-Badis teaches some of his weekly classes.

His students shuffle in, including an American-born Peace Now activist, a former Tel Aviv University professor of art history and a couple of twenty-somethings sprinkled among the mostly grey haired students. The earlier class included a journalist and a former ambassador.

Toward the end of each year, Ben-Badis takes his students on tours, as part of the process of learning the language. They visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stop in at some Arabic libraries in East Jerusalem, and join iftar meals and hear Sufi music during Ramadan.

“We’re not in a normal situation where learning the language is just to connect, it’s something else entirely,” said Ben-Badis. “It’s the difference between the Jewish student learning Arabic and a Palestinian from East Jerusalem learning Hebrew. Jews can live and earn a living without Arabic but an Arab needs Hebrew as a tool of earning a living. For Jews, Arabic is a bonus, it’s a privilege, because he’s the one in power.”

Teaching the language to Jewish Israelis, he said, isn’t about coexistence or bringing peace. In fact, said Ben-Badis, coexistence isn’t a word that he uses any longer.

“I want to help people, no matter who, get to know me better, Anwar, and my nation and my family and the people around me,” he said. “I’m not trying to convince them to change, I’m just trying to open a window or a door. I don’t want to be their friend, I’m showing them something else through the language. The language is a tool.”

(emphasis theirs) The language schools mentioned above can be contacted through the following links: LingoLearn, Ha-ambatia, Damascus Gate and Anwar Ben-Badis through the Jerusalem Intercultural Center. There are also learning language exchanges available through Facebook.

Congratulations Anwar!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of our Arabic-language classes.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Palestinian Municipal Social Workers Learning Hebrew

We’ve told you here and here the importance of learning the ‘other’s’ language. Hebrew-speakers learning Arabic, Arabic-speakers learning Hebrew. Our MiniActive volunteers have been studying Hebrew for the past two years, and haven’t stopped singing the praises of the course.

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Given this success, answering a request from Palestinian social workers, from different branches of the municipal welfare office in East Jerusalem, to offer courses in Hebrew. These courses are important for them professionally in their interactions with their colleagues and the overall welfare system. Like the courses for the MiniActive women, these courses were also given by the Medabrot Ivrit (Speaking Hebrew) volunteer-based group.

Thirty-four women participated in 2 courses, 2 levels of Hebrew. The women met for 3 hours each time, for 28 meetings. They ran from 9 March to 6 July.

There are a number of success stories from this course. One social worker, who’s been working in the municipal system for 10 years, told her class how she was able to write a report in Hebrew by herself for the first time. This is one example of how these classes are enabling Palestinian women – especially professionals – to be more independent, and to be able to communicate better and more effectively with the Hebrew-speaking system. It is part of our efforts to make Jerusalem culturally competent – enabling all populations to better access – and demand when necessary – the rights that are guaranteed them by law.

The Jerusalem Foundation was a full partner to this effort, in connecting, designing, and eventually in providing the required funds.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Wouldn’t You Like to Know What He’s Saying?

Doesn’t this tour look interesting?

It’s on Salah a-Din St. in East Jerusalem, where Jerusalem’s Ramadan cannon is located. The Ramadan cannon is traditionally used to announce the end of the daily fast during the Ramadan month.

This past week, our veteran Arabic teacher, Dr. Anwar Ben-Badis, took students on a tour of cemetery, where Jerusalem’s Ramadan cannon is located. Since they’ve been studying Arabic all year, his talk was of course, in Arabic.

Looking to learn Arabic for communication? Feel free to sign up for our 2017-2018 courses. (Click here for the online form in Hebrew.) But hurry! Places are filling fast!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of our language courses.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Learning Arabic through Living It

There’s nothing better in learning a language than living it. What more fun can it be than to live the language than by taking a tour in it, on Arabic heritage?

Touring the Nature Museum

Touring the Nature Museum

This is what 173 out of our 220 students of Arabic did over the past few weeks – taking part in tours of the Dean’s House at the Natural History Museum in the Talbiyeh neighborhood.

Or they heard a lecture by journalist and author Makbulah Nassar from the village of Arabeh in the north of Israel.

Speaking to Arabic classes

Speaking to Arabic classes

She spoke about the Arab woman in Israel from a journalist’s standpoint, as well as from a woman’s standpoint, to about 60 Arabic students.

Listening intently to the lecture

Listening intently to the lecture

Interested in learning Arabic for yourself? Registration for the 2017 – 2018 is already underway. But hurry! Places are filling fast! Click here for the registration forms (in Hebrew).

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of this project.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2016 – What a Year!

As we jump head-first into 2017, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2016, and what a year it’s been! Overall, a year of unprecedented growth and development, and we can’t wait to get started in 2017. Here are some highlights:

Cultural Competence

  • The Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference in May 2016, organized jointly by the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, was a turning point for the JICC. Attended by hundreds of professionals, from Jerusalem and throughout Israel, the conference presented strides that have been made over the past 10 years, and set the stage for the next step of meeting diverse residents’ diverse needs, in all areas of life.
  • Continued work in the health care system, in Jerusalem and as a model throughout Israel, training in-house coordinators and facilitators to increase sustainability and adaptability within individual institutions. For the first time, work included a national network of hospitals and clinics.
  • Expansive work in the Israel Police Force, reaching most police stations and present and future commanding officials, and continuing to expand training in 2017.
  • Groundbreaking work with the National Insurance Institute (NII), East Jerusalem branch, the first NII branch in the country to undergo a process of cultural competence.
  • In the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire Community Services Administration, which includes welfare, public health, immigrant absorption, and more, is undergoing training, as well as the Auditor’s Office which will be able to look at the entire Municipality’s operations through the prism of cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Santé Israël, the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers, celebrated its first birthday. 
Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker, Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

2016 was an important year for us to take stock of the past four years of this program. Our conclusions show that:

  • The number of certified Arab paramedical professionals in East Jerusalem has grown significantly.
  • The program has enabled the JICC to more clearly map the situation of different paramedical professions in east Jerusalem, contributing to the knowledge of training in the Jerusalem area.
  • The awareness both among Palestinian institutes of higher education and health care institutions in east Jerusalem as well as Israeli Ministry of Health has been raised significantly.
  • A large window of opportunity for Arab women paramedical professionals to improve economic opportunities has been opened.

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

Both 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 broke enrollment records. In 2015-16 there were 180 students in 12 classes, over 5 levels. In 2016-2017, there are 240 students in 16 classes, also over 5 levels. We also held several cultural evenings to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic culture. Here’s a short video about the program:

Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents

The Atta’a Center has been in existence since 2004, and in 2015 it came under the aegis of the JICC. In 2016 we have seen:

  • 70% growth in number of requests
  • Ballooning of its Facebook page to over 7,100 ‘likes,’ and launching of its web site.
  • Publication of a widely-referenced booklet on the Ministry of Interior
  • Expansion of network of partners in action, both from NGO’s and advocacy groups as well as municipal and government agencies.

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

  • For the first time ever, MiniActive activities led to a change in policy. After months of campaigning, MiniActive led the way toward the addition of 3 million NIS to the annual municipal sanitation budget for east Jerusalem, and 16 million NIS for the purchase of additional equipment for sanitation. As a result of this work, the entire Municipality is focusing their attention on garbage collection throughout
  • In January 2016, MiniActive organized the first ever Arabic language Horticulture Therapy course in Jerusalem for special education teachers, in cooperation with the David Yellin Academic College of Education.
  • Bus stops in entire neighborhoods were repaired and replaced, thanks to MiniActive.
  • 210 women – including 50 youth – are studying Hebrew through a volunteer NGO to improve the effectivity of their activism. This is a record-breaking number, which broke last year’s record of 150 women.
  • In MiniActive Youth for the Environment, teenage girls learn leadership skills while participating in major environment-improving public art and other projects in neighborhoods throughout east Jerusalem.
  • MiniActive became a model for international work, hosting a delegation that works with the Roma population in the Czech Republic in November 2016.

Take a look at MiniActive’s own year in review. It’s pretty easy to understand, even if you don’t know Arabic:

Emergency Readiness Networks

In 2016 we expanded the network to include 14 communities throughout Jerusalem. In addition to training new volunteers, the program included training of existing networks to maintain ability to respond and increase sustainability.

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

In 2016 we mentored community center staffs in Gilo, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messuah, Baka’a and south Talpiot. For the first time, residents – especially the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Menachem and the highly diverse community of south Talpiot –felt that they were able to influence issues that affected their everyday lives. Training included using Facebook as a community-building tool key to increasing residents’ engagement in community processes.

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

Since the summer of 2014 the JICC have been at the forefront of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. 2016 accomplishments include:

  • A Different Day in Jerusalem celebrated Jerusalem’s diversity through 50 coordinated events, affecting tens of thousands of people on Jerusalem Day. It was the first time such a broad effort has been made to celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity.
  • JICC-mentored Speaking in the Square and other tolerance initiatives that came in their wake led to the redesigning of Zion Square, to be called Tolerance Square. The initiative’s Effective Dialogue methodology spread, and is now being presented in national frameworks.
  • 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem are now liked by nearly 80,000 people and reach some 150,000 people weekly on Facebook and the Internet. The network now includes pages that translate from Arabic to Hebrew, from Arabic to English and one which brings news from the Ultra-Orthodox world to the awareness of the general population.
  • The JICC was asked to be one of the leading organizations in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations to Promote Tolerance, formed by the Center for Young Adults and the Municipality’s Young Authority.
  • The JICC is continuing to develop Tolerance Network Teams (TNT’s), a series of neighborhood-based and theme-based grassroots initiatives that seek to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.
Elhanan Miller Haaretz article

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

Since October 2015, Window to Mount Zion has bridged inter-religious and inter-community gaps that have festered between Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups for centuries. As a result of its activity over the past year:

  • In unheard-of cooperation, religious Jewish and Christian groups have issued joint statements condemning hate crimes on Mount Zion.
  • Christian ceremonies, which in the past have caused inter-religious tension, proceeded without incident.
  • The celebration of Christian and Jewish holidays that coincided simultaneously, which in the past had been the source of conflict and tension, also proceeded smoothly.
Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

The JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, sponsor the only paid public servant in Israel to help asylum seekers, outside of Tel Aviv. We are also part of a consortium of organizations and agencies that seek to meet the needs of asylum seekers living in the city.

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

Many many thanks go out to our partners in action and our donors. You can read about our activities in more detail either by clicking on the hyperlinks above, or by clicking here.

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A Window to Arabic Culture – Arabic Language for Communication

We always say that language are the window to a culture. Learn another language, and you can gain insight into what makes that culture tick.

That is one of the main reasons that we’ve been offering classes in Arabic for communication for more than the past 10 years. And a few years ago we began opening that window a little wider, offering our students opportunities to get to know Arab culture even better. In the past we’ve hosted some very interesting speakers – authors, teachers, poets, and more. And we’ve offered tours of the Old City, given like only someone who knows every street and alleyway can give. (You can read about those encounters here and here and here.)

Learning about civil society organization in Arab culture in Israel

Learning about civil society organization in Arab culture in Israel

This year we started something different. On January 1, we introduced levels 3,4 and 5 to civil society in Arab culture in Israel. Specifically, organizations that work to help Arab women and advance their rights in Israel. We hosted Ms. Samah Salymeh, who spoke about a number of these organizations, such as one for battered women, one for victims of rape, and more. She spoke about how these organizations work, especially given the challenges of traditional Arab society.

It was an important evening, and we’re very glad that she came.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of this program.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

MiniActive – Studying Hebrew to Improve Activism

Well, the academic year has started, and it’s time to get back to studying Hebrew. We’ve written about MiniActive studying Hebrew here and here. Every year, more and more MiniActive women – and MiniActive are studying Hebrew.

Starting at the beginning with level 1

Starting at the beginning with level 1

The courses take place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and are operated by the Medabrot Ivrit (Speaking Hebrew) project.

Posing for a picture before class

Posing for a picture before class

This year, we have 210 women – and 50 MiniActive Youth – in three levels, studying Hebrew. This Hebrew will enable the women to communicate with municipal and other officials, write letters, and more.

Learning to communicate with one another

Learning to communicate with one another

We’ve been working with Medabrot Ivrit for several years now, and we’re especially proud this year, after they won first prize in the Jerusalem Foundation‘s Social Innovation Challenge this past September.

Even MiniActive Youth are participating

Even MiniActive Youth are participating

Kol Hakavod to organizers and participants!

Here’s one of the posts from the MiniActive Facebook page:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Record-breaking Numbers as Arabic Courses Open

Before you learn another language, it often sounds like this:

 

However, Arabic is an official language of Israel, and the fact that relatively few Jewish Israelis are able to communicate in Arabic creates gaps in understanding and communication, right from the get-go. Since we believe that learning the language of the ‘other’ enables one to gain insight and understanding of his or her culture, we at the JICC have been operating Arabic-language courses for over 10 years. They are indeed, one of our longest-running programs. We continue to be the largest Arabic school in Jerusalem, and maybe the largest in Israel.

Studying Arabic

Studying Arabic

On September 1 we started up the Arabic classes once again, with our veteran teachers Anwar and Suha, and our newer addition, Gali. This year we had another record-breaking year – 16 classes over 5 levels – some 240 people registered!  That is definitely a new high.

And here’s where studying Arabic with us can take you. As we were gearing up for the year our long-time teachers Anwar and Suha were in contact with some of their veteran students. Anwar called one of his students, Anat, who had been in his class from level 1 through level 4, but who hadn’t signed up for level 5 this year. “Anwar,” she said, “Because of the Arabic I studied with you at the JICC, I’m in Greece for the year, helping Syrian refugees. I’m actually able to communicate with them, and help them. Thank you for opening up this opportunity.”

Anat, we’re so happy you’re able to put your Arabic to good use.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of this program.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email