A rookie Likud party lawmaker proposed a bill Wednesday to introduce mandatory Arabic language classes in Jewish schools throughout Israel beginning as early as first grade.
Hebrew language classes would also be mandated to first graders in Arab schools, under the legislation proposed to the Knesset by freshman MK Oren Hazan, who said the common language would serve as “a bridge between peoples.”
“Knowing the language of the ‘other’ provides a basis for the mutual understanding and respect [we] need in light of the current situation in the country,” he said.
According to Hazan, Israeli Jews graduate from high school with an insufficient level of Arabic.
“Just as you won’t find an Arab citizen who doesn’t know Hebrew after completing 12 years of formal education,” Hazan said, according to the Maariv daily. “So too, it’s inconceivable that we maintain a status quo in which a Jew who has completed 12 years schooling doesn’t know how to speak Arabic.”
The lawmaker didn’t offer an explanation for requiring Hebrew language classes in Arab schools from first grade.
Hazan noted that Arabic is Israel’s official language along with Hebrew and appears on road signs, public institutions and government offices.
Under the Israeli educational guidelines, Jewish schools are supposed to teach three hours of Arabic a week to 7th-10th graders. However, the directive is not strictly enforced and many institutions do not offer classes.
In his brief stint in the Knesset, Hazan has already faced a number of controversies. First, the media spotlighted his previous job as a casino manager on the Bulgarian Riviera, prompting criticism, and more recently, he was slammed for offering leftist NGO Breaking the Silence false testimony in an attempt to discredit the group.