A new program to teach Arabic language and culture to all Jewish children in Israel’s north – as a means of promoting closer ties between Jews and Arabs – could lead to an increase in the already alarming rate of intermarriage, warn activists who have been combating the problem.
The program, which was launched this September, requires all schools in the ministry’s northern district to offer two hours a week of instruction in Arabic language, culture and tradition. Fifth graders in all state and state-religious schools will be taught by Arab instructors and Jews who have received special training.
“This will contribute to a deeper awareness and understanding of the Arabic heritage and will promote coexistence, living together, tolerance and friendship between the various student populations in the north,” wrote Dr. Orna Simchon, head of the northern district, in a letter to school principals.
However, while the Education Ministry is keen on promoting better understanding among Jewish children of Arabic culture and tradition, it refuses to consider proposals to promote understanding of Jewish culture and tradition.
One such proposal, put forth by Yad L’Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz, was for all secular state schools to start the day with the recitation of Shema Yisrael, as a means of strengthening the students’ connection to core Jewish beliefs.
“It is tragic that the Education Ministry rejects out of hand subjects that touch on the essence of the Jewish people, but accepts and even initiates programs that offer Jewish children Arab culture – for the sake of ‘friendship and coexistence’ – that are likely to cause irreversible damage in the form of mixed marriage,” Rav Lifschitz said.
Rav Lifschitz last week appealed to the education minister to instruct state schools to introduce Jewish studies into the curriculum as part of a meaningful program to deepen the ties of Jewish children to their heritage.