An Israeli parliamentary committee approved a bill that would require Arabic instruction starting in first grade in Israeli schools, the Jerusalem Post reports, and the measure will be put to a preliminary vote of the entire Knesset on Wednesday. The bill was proposed by Oren Hazan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-leaning and sometimes xenophobic Likud party who has what you might call a colorful background. From the Post:
"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,” Hazan said.
“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 also said.
Per this Sept. 8 piece in Haaretz, Arabic is not presently a subject of great interest in Israeli schools, with classes often focusing only on its usefulness in security operations and only 3 percent of high school students taking matriculation exams on the topic.