Arab students at Ben Gurion U
Arab students at Ben Gurion U Israel news photo: Flash 90

This fall, a Hebrew class titled “Know Your Enemy” is going to be offered in Hamas-run schools in Gaza, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

After much debate, last month Hamas officials chose to add Hebrew to the elective choices offered to students in Gazan schools, rather than Turkish or German.

“Through the Hebrew language we can understand the structure of the Israeli society, the way they think,” explained Mahmoud Matar, director general of the Hamas-run Ministry of Education here.

“The Arabic language is a basic thing for the Israelis, and they use it to achieve what they want,” Matar added. “We look at Israel as an enemy. We teach our students the language of the enemy.”

While the Education Ministry has not yet settled on curriculum materials, it will probably use photocopied worksheets, rather than purchasing texts from the abhorred “Zionist enemy.”

The program, beginning in 10 to 20 schools in September, will be offered to boys and girls separately.

If the program proves to be successful it may expand to include all of Gaza’s 180 high schools, Matar noted.

“French language is not useful for us, because we study English, and when you study English you will not need the French,” said Menna Lalahi, a student who is planning on enrolling for the course. “With the Hebrew, it is a different language for people who live close to us. The Israelis used to come to Gaza and might come again in the future.”

Unlike Hamas, the Palestinian Authority does not teach Hebrew in its schools and has no intention of doing so.

In Israel, approximately 350,000 students are enrolled in Arabic and the course recently was introduced as an option in fifth and sixth grades, attracting 15,000, according to officials.

According to the Education Ministry, approximately 10,000 high-schoolers are enrolled in the course.??

Many in Gazans see the opportunity to learn Hebrew as training to be future spies, while others believe it can be used to pursue more practical goals.