The number of students who have signed up to learn Arabic has increased by 140% since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Berlitz Language School in Israel announced this past week.
“The riots in Judea and Samaria, the violence between Jews and Arabs in Israel and in the Gaza war have raised the awareness of the Jewish public for the need to understand the language of our neighbors,” said Miri Ishmael Sasson, CEO of Berlitz Israel.
It's about time.
Regardless of whether Jewish Israeli youths view their Arab neighbors as friends or adversaries, a knowledge of the complex and challenging Arabic language is essential for any real understanding.
As a young enlisted person in the US Armed Forces, I studied a foreign language (Korean) at the military school in Monterey as part of my specialty training. The American government invests enormous resources in teaching its selected military people foreign languages (including Hebrew, which used to be called "Special Arabic" at DLI). This is an indication of how seriously our Government takes the importance of foreign language instruction.
Many Palestinian and Israeli Arabs speak fluent Hebrew, even if they regard it as "the language of the enemy". Whether Jews and Arabs are fated to be enemies remains to be seen; but Jewish Israeli youth will do well to understand their neighbors better, by mastering the Arabic language.
I am afraid the other guys are way ahead of our side here. Israel needs to start catching up.