JTA — When Liron Lavi Turkenich designed a writing system combining Hebrew and Arabic characters as a final project in college, she probably could not have imagined that her script would become the focal point of Israel’s pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.
But after the Abraham Accords, in which Israel signed diplomatic agreements to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates, and the peace agreements with other Arab countries that followed, the need for Aravrit, Turkenich’s script that allows both Hebrew and Arabic to be read from the same text, has expanded. The sky is now the limit for Turkenich’s project.
“I would like to get to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It’s a kind of dream. I would be happy for someone to adopt ‘El Mahar.’ An outdoor sculpture demands attention just as a language creates attention,” Turkenich told Haaretz, referring to the sculpture featured in the Israel pavilion. “El Mahar” means “toward tomorrow.”
Turkenich was first inspired to create the writing system by her upbringing in Haifa, one of Israel’s most integrated cities where Jews and Palestinians mix frequently and where Arabic is ubiquitous. But Turkenich realized that she tended to ignore that language, which she didn’t understand, and automatically paid attention to the Hebrew which she did.
When she read an article by a 19th-century French ophthalmologist who wrote that only the top half of Latin letters were actually needed in order to understand what they said, she decided to test the theory on Hebrew. She found that it was actually only the bottom halves of the letters that were needed in Hebrew. In Arabic, luckily, it was the top halves that were necessary.
By combining the top halves of the Arabic characters and the bottoms of the Hebrew ones, Turkenich created Aravrit. While the script isn’t widely available for use as a downloadable font, Turkenich has used the script to design jewelry and ceramic dishes. And now the massive sculpture — more than 40 feet long and 16 feet tall — that forms the centerpiece of the Israel pavilion.
“Both Hebrew and Arabic have incredible histories. We should not erase them. It’s the same as the political situation: We can’t start from scratch,” Turkenich said in 2017, adding that she hoped Aravrit would lead to greater coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians at home and between Israelis and people throughout the Arab world.
“I believe Aravrit sends a message that we’re both here, and we might as well acknowledge each other,” Turkenich said.
“That applies to Jews and Arab Israelis, but also to Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Arab world,” she said.
During a global pandemic, one tiny country is producing research that's helping to guide health policy across the world. How effective are COVID-19 vaccines? After the initial two shots, does a third dose help? What about a fourth?
When The Times of Israel began covering COVID-19, we had no idea that our small beat would become such a central part of the global story. Who could have known that Israel would be first at nearly every juncture of the vaccination story - and generate the research that's so urgently needed today?
Our team has covered this story with the rigor and accuracy that characterizes Times of Israel reporting across topics. If it’s important to you that this kind of media organization exists and thrives, I urge you to support our work. Will you join The Times of Israel Community today?
Nathan Jeffay, Health & Science Correspondent
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we come to work every day - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.