To ensure educational opportunities, professional development and economic advancement for the young generation, the Jerusalem Foundation focuses on language education: Hebrew and Arabic to foster understanding and respect, and English to open new opportunities and frontiers.
Although Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages, neither Jews nor Arabs in Jerusalem regularly speak the other’s language, which perpetuates misconceptions and intolerance. To strengthen the community and the social fabric of the city, the Jerusalem Foundation seeks to facilitate understanding between Jews and Arabs by teaching the ‘other’s’ language. The goal is to transform attitudes and behaviors, help Arab Israelis feel at home in Israel and facilitate dialogue between the two cultures and communities. Positive communication and mutual respect build communal strength and help shape the Jerusalem of the future in line with the Jerusalem Foundation’s vision for 2030.
Language as a Cultural Bridge is a 2-year Arabic instruction course for grades 5-6 to enable Jewish children to communicate in Arabic. The Jerusalem Foundation has operated the program in Jerusalem since 2005 in collaboration with the Abraham Fund Initiative, with 18 to 20 schools participating each year. The initiative breaks down barriers by teaching Arabic and Arab culture in Jewish schools and by placing Jewish school-children in regular contact with Arab teachers as role models. The program includes encounters between Jewish and Arab students and opportunities for Jewish and Arab students to practice Hebrew and Arabic together.
Hebrew and Arabic for children and adults: The Jerusalem Foundation also coordinates other programs to advance Hebrew and Arabic language skills for both children and adults.
- Hebrew instruction in Arab schools: places native Hebrew speakers as teachers in Arab schools, with special Hebrew language rooms to enhance learning.
- Talking Coexistence: Arabic language instruction for adults, operated by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, has offered instruction at all levels for the past 15 years.
- Women Speaking Hebrew: teaches Hebrew conversational skills to Arab women in an affordable and comfortable environment and has operated since 2013.
21st Century Language Skills for Technology
This groundbreaking program in partnership with the Azrieli College of Engineering is geared to non-native Hebrew speakers from underprivileged neighborhoods. The program enhances their ability to begin and complete degrees in the technological professions (chemical engineering, software engineering, electrical engineering, etc.) and successfully integrate into the modern workforce in Jerusalem. The biggest gap for these students is usually language skills in both Hebrew and English, both essential for success during their studies and as members of a modern workforce. The program provides tuition scholarships for individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds and courses and mentoring to strengthen their Hebrew and English language skills, allowing them to make the most of their education. The program emphasizes written and spoken, academic and conversational Hebrew and English before and during the degree program and toward graduation with special workshops for applying for, interviewing and integrating into new employment.
This program is a model for other academic institutions to prepare non-native Hebrew speakers to integrate into the modern workforce in Jerusalem and in Israel, contributing to Israel’s startup economy and opening opportunities for economic advancement for themselves and their families.