There’s always an interesting story to tell about Intensive Arabic Semester participants both during and after the Semester, but what about their teachers?
Yisrael Ne’eman is a historian specialising in Middle East conflict, Jewish history, and Israel. A lecturer at the University of Haifa International School since 1991 and licensed national tour guide, Yisrael has also been teaching courses on the history and politics of the Middle East as well as Jewish history to IAS groups since the programme’s inception.
Yisrael has recently completed his first book, entitled Hamas Jihad: Antisemiticsm, Islamic World Conquest and Manipulation of Palestinian Nationalism. IAS 2016 participant, Natasha Pein, spoke with Yisrael to find out more about the book.
What is the main point that the book makes?
The rise of Islamic Jihadism is posing an ever greater threat to Israel and the West. Through an analysis of the Hamas Covenant, Palestinian National Charter, and the Koran, the book shows that there is “a non-violent solution to...stop the acts of terrorism carried out across the planet.”
What is the proposed solution?
The answer to a peaceful solution “lies in the Koran itself”. The Koran states: “If we abrogate (nullify) any verse or cause it is to be forgotten, we will replace it by a better one or one similar” (2:106). From this comes the idea of “reverse abrogation”. The Koran contains verses which express negative attitudes towards Jews as well as those which express positive attitudes. With textual support, Islamic leaders and jurists are able to make religious judgements. The idea is that these leaders and jurists can interpret Koranic clause 2:106 to promote a path for Islam that is based on peace and coexistence. In the past, “Islamic jurists nullified positive, peaceful comments about and towards others, demanding a universal Jihad for world conquest.” The solution put forward by the book is that this “same Islamic tool can be used today to nullify Jihad and the negative and discriminatory verses, while reinforcing positive statements and peaceful commentaries.”
How does this approach differ from others?
This approach recognises that the West “will not defeat Jihadi Islam by trying to impose secular liberal democratic understandings on Arab Muslims”. The book proposes a solution based on the Koran itself by showing that certain elements within the Koran are compatible with coexistence between Muslims and other groups. By using clause 2:106, clauses in support of such coexistence which were once abrogated, can now be brought to the forefront and emphasised.
By Anna Lamport, 2016
I participated in the 2016 Intensive Arabic Semester programme at Givat Haviva and would highly recommend the programme to anyone interested in studying Arabic though you will need to obtain your own medical and travel insurance. Over the course of five months, I learnt a mixture of Modern Standard Arabic (Fusha) as well as developing a deep understanding of local Ammiyya Arabic as it is spoken and used in the Wadi Ara area of Israel. I was also given exposure during the programme to the Bedouin, Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian dialects. Attending the Intensive Arabic Semester programme is an amazing experience for the following four main reasons:
Firstly the programme director and the teaching staff promote a holistic approach to education and care for the well-being and development of course participants as unique individuals. This means that within the course framework, studying is bespoke and tailored to you. Personally my greatest challenge learning Arabic is pronunciation so I received extra speaking help. Beyond the classroom, whenever we wanted something like an extra heater or more bowls to eat out of, everyone at Givat Haviva was extremely generous and helpful. On International Women’s Day, I and the other female students received carnations and we were all often treated to motivational cakes and sweets.
Secondly, the programme includes fascinating trips around Israel, which enables participants to meet local Arab speakers and to practice their language skills in real-life situations with the support of their teachers. Within our first few weeks in Israel, our group visited the Arabic village of Ba’arta, where our teacher introduced us to a local shop keeper. He kindly invited us into his general goods store and then gave us all free coffee. Since we were lacking a sharp kitchen knife to cut vegetables, we asked (in Arabic) if we could buy one from him. In the manner of true Arab hospitality, the store keeper gave us a knife and refused to take any payment for it. Instead he told us that our first ‘purchase’ was a present and encouraged us to return to his store in the future. My favourite trip was to Northern Israel to meet a variety of minority communities including Circassians, Druzes, Arab Christians and Ahamadiyya Muslims. The rich diversity and harmonious co-existence of so many different faiths and ethnic communities were inspirational.
Even in weeks when no trip is planned, the variety of the programme ensures that studying at Givat Haviva is always a stimulating experience. Interspersed with Arabic grammar, vocabulary and speaking classes, there are classes in the history of the Middle East, Jewish Studies and Hebrew. I had very little background knowledge of Israel and Palestine and not a word of Hebrew at the beginning of the programme. Thanks to the excellent teaching staff of Givat Haviva, I learnt a lot and was pleased to find that these additional classes both complimented and enhanced my understanding of Arabic. For instance, in one memorable history of the Middle East class we learnt the origins of the words ‘Right’ ( Yameen) and ‘Left’ (Shamal) in Arabic, which come from the countries of Yemen and Eastern Africa as ships travelling up the Red Sea passed Yemen on their right side.
Part of the uniqueness of the Intensive Arabic Semester programme comes from its location on the Givat Haviva campus in Northern Israel, approximately an hour away from Tel Aviv. Nestled close to the large Arab cities of Umm al-Fahim and Baqa al-Gharbiya and also close to smaller Arab communities such as Zemer, Ara’Ara and Kafr Qari’a, Givat Haviva’s location means that students can practice their Arabic when shopping or going to nearby cafes and restaurants. Regularly, I would practice my Arabic with locals in everyday situations and always received a friendly response in spite of making many mistakes. These everyday experiences enabled me to achieve a deeper insight into Arab culture: what is typical food for each meal, how the sounds of cockerels crowing and calls to prayer from mosques punctuate communities and how different age groups dress. Jeans are as popular in Israel as they are in Europe in spite of the hotter weather! Givat Haviva is also very close to the kibbutzim of Ein Shemer, with its large avocado fields, and Ma’anit, which both have swimming pools and convenience stores for students to use.
Givat Haviva itself is a beautiful and tranquil campus and is well-known locally as a beacon of safety within Israel. It is sufficiently far from both the troubled Gaza border and the Northern borders of Israel with Lebanon and Syria to be largely untroubled by potential rockets; it is a safe place to focus on studying Arabic within the turbulent and often violent world of the Middle East. Whilst Givat Haviva is tranquil, it is also a bustling hive of constructive activity, which students on the Intensive Arabic Semester programme are able to explore. Among other interesting projects and buildings is the Moreshet Holocaust and Research Centre, where a special ceremony is held annually on Yom Ha’Shoah that I found very moving.
Overall, I had an awesome time on the Intensive Arabic Semester programme and hope that you will too!
By Dore Faith, Summer Course student at Givat Haviva 2016
This week I visited Zachariah Mahamid and his family in their home in Muawiya, an Arab town of about four thousand nestled in the small slopes west of Umm al-Fahm. Zachariah teaches citizenship and civics in the local high school, and we met as part of my Arabic studies at Givat Haviva, where he directs Jewish-Arab coexistence programs throughout the year.
After I was greeted by Zachariah’s family with abundant candies and fruits, his eight-year old son enjoyed learning the English words of several animals. Pointing at their pictures, we came up with tricks to remember their names — dob ends in B, which is the first letter of its meaning, bear; nimr and tiger each end with an “–er” sound; qitt and cat have more or less the same consonants, just with a different internal vowel. I spent the rest of the evening chatting in Arabic and Hebrew with Zachariah and his wife, Laila, and their kids.
We discussed children’s movies and television, and also some politics, while sitting on his roof and watching the sun set over the town’s olive groves.
I returned home later that evening well-fed, eager to tell my friends about Zachariah and Laila’s demonstration of local hospitality.