An Israeli politician has an idea about how to foster coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians -- require schools in Israel to teach Arabic to Jewish students starting in first grade, and Hebrew to Arab students -- and his proposal is slowly picking up speed. A bill laying out those requirements is slated for a preliminary vote Wednesday in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, after being approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, in the midst of ongoing violence and attacks that many have openly described as the seeds of the "Third Intifada."
The bill, introduced by Knesset Member Oren Hazan of the Likud party, was aimed at offering a solution that would, from an early age, help Israelis and Palestinians understand each other. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett is among those who support it.
“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 said, the Jerusalem Post reported. “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,” he added.
Schools in Israel fall into four categories, according to the government: state schools, which comprise the majority; state state schools that focus on Jewish studies; Arab and Druze schools; and private schools. In Israel, Hazan has previously said, the majority of Arabs inevitably learn Hebrew, but Jews are hardly guaranteed to learn Arabic. "It's inconceivable that we maintain a status quo in which a Jew who has completed 12 years schooling doesn’t know how to speak Arabic,” he told Tablet Magazine in May.
The latest wave of tension between Israelis and Palestinians has been growing since September, when clashes began between Israeli soldiers entering the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Palestinian worshippers there. More violence has since ensued in cities throughout Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Since Oct. 1, Israeli forces have killed at least 52 Palestinians, while Palestinians have killed eight Israelis, Al Jazeera reported.