Friday, February 24, 2017

Toda = Shukran: Teaching Hebrew to Arabs online [Original article contains a video.]

image (not from article) from

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs begins a new initiative to teach Arabic-speakers via online videos; in future, they hope to share more information about Israeli life and holidays.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Public Diplomacy Department launched a new project on Tuesday: videos that teach Hebrew to Arabic speakers.

The MFA's Arabic Facebook page released its first video on Tuesday that features two employees of the Public Diplomacy Department (one Jewish and the other Arab) in a quick introductory lesson for Arabic speakers. They covered simple words, such as "ken" ("yes"), "shalóm" ("peace"/"hello"/"goodbye"), "bóker tov" ("good morning") and "todá rabá" ("thank you very much").

The video is to be the first in a series that will become more complex as the taught vocabulary increases.

The first video was widely viewed and received mixed reactions. Some asked for further lessons, and others attempted to use the new words. Some, however, replied negatively, such as one who wrote "Welcome" and attached a picture of knife.

Yonatan Gonen, the Head of the Arabic Digital Diplomacy Department at the MFA, explained, "In pilots that we've held in the past, we identified curiosity and exuberant enthusiasm amongst the Arab audience to learn more and more about the Hebrew language, which is so close to Arabic.

"Later, we intend in the video lessons to also teach words about the Israeli way of life and holidays."

According to Gonen, there are faculties of Hebrew instruction in the Arabic world, including in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, but they are principally in academic institutions that are far removed from the general populace.

"This is a good opportunity to make public diplomacy about Israel in an attempt to dispel stereotypes and present the positive sides of the country, which doesn't get covered in the Arab media."

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