Children at Beersheba’s Hagar bilingual school read together.
(photo credit: HAGAR: JEWISH-ARAB EDUCATION FOR EQUALITY)
A bill approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would make it mandatory for schools to teach Arabic from the first grade.
The measure was introduced by MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who said that in supporting the legislation in the middle of a wave of terrorism, the government was signaling that it seeks coexistence and calm.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett was also among the bill’s supporters.
Hazan encouraged lawmakers from the coalition and opposition to put politics aside and vote in favor of the measure when it is put to a preliminary Knesset vote on Wednesday. He saw Arabic studies from an early age as providing a bridge between different parts of Israel’s population.
“In these days, when terror is on the rise and coexistence is undermined, it’s important to lower the flames among the nation’s citizens, and there is no better way to do that than by understanding each other’s language, to understand the culture and mentality of 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel and hundreds of millions of Arabic- speakers in the Middle East,” Hazan said.
“I have no doubt that when the Jewish population will understand Arabic, the way the Arab public understands Hebrew, we will see better days,” Hazan also said.