Arabic Lessons Boost Students’ Entry to Top IDF Units


In light of Israel’s ongoing security situation and the general need to be conversant with its neighbors, the IDF is encouraging schools to offer Arabic-language courses to qualify more recruits for elite combat and intelligence units. At Boys Town Jerusalem, an enthusiastic group of students is taking up the challenge, devoting their free time to learning to speak Arabic in the school’s new extracurricular class. “I’ve set my sites on serving in a special combat unit,” says eighth-grader Yehudah Tehrani. “A knowledge of Arabic is essential to get me there.”

“Knowing Arabic will help me in life and will enable me to help the State of Israel.”

“The Israeli Army is quite pragmatic in its requirements,” notes instructor Irit Friedman. “Fluency in Arabic is an invaluable skill to secure our safety and our military edge. But I do hope that the students will also utilize their expertise in Arabic to increase good will with our neighbors.”

According to Principal Yehudah Rosencrantz, the extracurricular class is paving the way for a full-fledged Arabic language program at BTJ. “Plans are now underway to offer Arabic lessons as a part of the regular academic curriculum from next year, for the benefit of Israel’s security and society at large.”

For now, the lively after-school class is aimed to teach introduce students to the basics for conversing in Arabic on day-to-day topics. Beyond the vocabulary, Irit Friedman also acquaints the boys with an understanding of Arabic culture, holidays and way of life.

“”I look forward to these lessons for a good reason”

“I made it clear from the start that there is no room for political discussions here,” she explained. “I do emphasize the similarities between Hebrew and Arabic, and the boys were quite amazed to discover how many Arabic words they already use in everyday Israeli lingo.”

After less than two months, the Boys Town Jerusalem students are already gaining fluency, plus a growing motivation to learn and better their chances for someday being accepted to the top IDF units.

Instructor Irit Friedman only began her own study of the Arabic language in high school. Following her degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic Literature from Tel Aviv University, Irit taught a broad range of Arabic classes. For the past nearly thirty years, she worked as a senior editor for Kol Yisrael Israel Radio’s Arabic-language broadcasts, and only recently returned to the realm of education.

“Irit really explains things well, and I look forward to these lessons for a good reason,” said eighth grader Avishai Yardeni. “Knowing Arabic will help me in life and will enable me to help the State of Israel.”

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