Israeli Studies in UAE
"UAE national Mira Al Hussain, 23, is about to start a masters degree programme in international relations in the UK, where she plans to study Hebrew.
"Mira recently wrote an open letter to US president George W. Bush criticising his Middle East policy, which has been widely published, and circulated on the internet, and has provoked a barrage of e-mail messages many of which came from Israel.
"A majority of the letters Mira received from Israel were 'respectful' but denounced her views, which Mira believes demonstrates a 'communication gap' between Israelis and Arabs.
"This 'crucial feedback', she said, confirmed the need to understand Israeli history, culture and religion and 'most importantly, their language'. Rasha Hinti, a 22-year-old Syrian student at the American University in Sharjah (AUS), said she would want to learn Hebrew to be able to read the Israeli press and converse with Israelis.
"'Languages demolish boundaries. More importantly, people can realise that at the end of the day, we are all human beings and not just pieces of land,' she said."
This is a great sign, for the imbalance between the many Israelis who want to integrate into the Middle East and the Arabs who for reasons that are understandable given the historical context in which Israel arose reflexively see them as a colonialist implant only to be opposed has long struck me as an obstacle in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Studying the language and culture will be a much-needed step toward examining the history involved from another perspective, and at least understanding where the Israelis are coming from.
Incidentally, this initiative highlighted by Natasha Tynes can be seen in a similar vein.