The U.S. federal government has granted nearly a million dollars to the Abraham Fund to support a three-year Arab-Israeli co-existence project.
The initiative, announced Tuesday, will be funded through the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) conflict mitigation and reconciliation program.
The Abraham Fund, founded in 1989, is a multi-million dollar foundation focused on promoting co-existence between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations.
Approximately 1,600 Arab and Jewish students are expected to participate in the activities under the organization’s Language as a Cultural Bridge Initiative, which begins at the elementary school level. At present, more than 15,000 students in 220 schools across the country learn Arabic as a required subject.
Under the program, Israel’s public schools would mandate the teaching of Arabic culture and language, just as Arab students are currently required to learn Hebrew as part of their own public school curriculum.
In addition, the program will sponsor cultural events throughout the year that bring together Jewish and Arab Israeli children. Arab students will attend Hebrew-language enrichment classes and participate in Jewish cultural seminars, and Jewish students will do the same, learning conversational Arabic and attending Arabic cultural activities.
According to the Abraham Fund’s website, the seeds of the program were actually launched more than five years ago by the Ministry of Education in the cities of Haifa and Karmiel.
In 2004, the organization conducted a comprehensive mapping of Arabic language instruction in Jewish schools and subsequently developed a special curriculum to combine the instruction of conversational Arabic language together with Arabic culture. The current, U.S.-funded program is based on that initiative.