Language is a Cultural Bridge

On June 10, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center held its end of the year party for its Arabic classes for Hebrew speakers. In 2011 - 2012 there were more than 80 students in 6 classes over 4 levels. The classes target professionals and students who come into contact with Arabic speakers on a regular basis. This year students worked at different NGO's, Sha'are Zedek and Hadassah hospitals, and more. The classes were so successful that students continued to meet at each other's houses to study Arabic after the regular classes ended.

 

The party included a second year student  who sang in both Hebrew and Arabic and accompanied himself on the guitar. Students spoke and told their stories - all in Arabic. Everyone thanked the teachers and remarked how wonderful they were. Some examples of students' testimonies:

 

 "We get a significant number of Arab patients at the hospital, and the fact that I can communicate with them in their language makes them feel more comfortable," said one Sha'are Tzedek student."Sometimes even the doctors ask me to help translate. I feel that I can really help all residents and not just Hebrew speakers and I feel much better about it."

 

"The Jerusalem Intercultural Center is one of the only places that teaches spoken and not literary Arabic which is important if you want to communicate with people, and at the same time, we learn Palestinian culture and people, not only the language," said another student.   

A third student, peace activist and photographer in the West Bank recalled his forays into the West Bank.  "There is much less Hebrew spoken and Arabic is a must."

 

A fourth student who works as an art teacher in the Hadassah Hospital school for hospitalized children, " Jewish and Arab children study together while they are hospitalized and even though there is supposed to be translation, there isn’t enough and I noticed a significant difference after only the first few words I learned."