An interactive TV channel aimed at helping new Israelis improve their Hebrew starts operation Monday, thanks to the Immigration and Absorption Ministry. The channel, called Ayin after the first letter in the word Ivrit ("Hebrew"), broadcasts under the slogan "Hebrew - We have a common language." It is available starting Monday on both HOT Digital cable (channel 120) and YES satellite (channel 191) for no additional fee. Two and a half years after the project was announced, the Hebrew learning channel is on the air.
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Viewers will be offered updates on general news, business, culture, sports and other topics supplied by the Yoma news agency. They can win prizes for solving Hebrew quizzes, language games and crossword puzzles. A weekly comic strip will teach common expressions and idioms. The channel will expose its viewers to a lexicon of words used by immigrants, including those used when renting a house, shopping, banking and reading the newspaper.
An Internet forum is offered to veteran immigrants to encourage dialogue with new olim regarding the Hebrew language.
The new channel can be navigated in six languages: Russian, Amharic, English, Spanish, French and Hebrew. Some of the channel's contents - crosswords, word games - are also available on the ministry's Web site (hebrew.moia.gov.il).
A survey conducted for the ministry in June found that 92 percent of Israelis from the former Soviet Union and 56% of Ethiopian immigrants subscribe to either HOT or YES, meaning the new channel's potential viewership totals more than a million new and veteran olim.
Focus groups of immigrants who watched test versions of the channel's programs said it helped them acquire a feeling of belonging, exposed them to the Israeli culture and increased their ability to navigate Israeli bureaucracy.
The channel is produced and operated by Effective X Software Systems, at an estimated cost of NIS 4.3 million for the first year and NIS 3.3m. annually thereafter.
Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze'ev Boim said at the launch event in Tel Aviv that conventional tools for teaching Hebrew appear to be deficient. He added that a lack of proficiency in Hebrew was the main obstacle to successfully integrating into society, both socially and economically.
The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council's chairman, Yoram Mokady, said he was glad that there was a growing use of TV services for purposes other than entertainment.