Language of reconciliation

Thousands of Egyptians are studying Hebrew and Israeli culture, despite lingering hostility and suspicion.

September 6, 2012 10:46
1 minute read.
Egyptians learning Hebrew

Egyptians learning hebrew . (photo credit: AVI KATZ)


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CAIRO - In the 20 months since Egyptians took to Cairo streets to sweep away the old corrupt regime, and with it the guardians of the Camp David peace treaty, pro-Israel sentiment has been hard to come by in Egypt. But one group of scholars could be a vital bridge to keeping the lines of communication open – the Hebrew lovers.

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Each year, some 6,000 Egyptian students break away from the pack and opt to study Hebrew, instead of the more popular courses offering German, French and even Russian.

And while this figure may seem small in a country with a population of more than 82 million, before the revolution the number of students was growing.

These students speak Hebrew, they read and translate Hebrew literature, and some have even visited Israel – a rarity in Egypt.

Most support the continuation of the peace treaty with Israel, even though the majority is critical of Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians. But vitally, they are able to see beyond the stereotypes and anti-Semitic images that are endemic in Egyptian media: A case in point: one of this year’s hit TV shows for Ramadan centered on a retired Egyptian policeman plotting a bank heist in Tel Aviv. There, his adventures bring him into contact with ultra-Orthodox Jews who bear a striking resemblance to Nazi caricatures, brutal Israeli soldiers and a small number of secular Jews who spend most of their time calling for the extermination of Arabs.

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