Language and Conflict in East Jerusalem: Arab Teachers’ Perspectives on Learning Hebrew

Abed Al-Rahman Mar'i, Beit Berl College, Israel
Nurit Buchweitz, Beit Berl College, Israel
Published: May 31, 2023

Citation: Mar'i, A. A. R., & Buchweitz. N. (2023). Language and Conflict in East Jerusalem: Arab Teachers’ Perspectives on Learning Hebrew. IAFOR Journal of Education11(1).


This study examines East Jerusalem teachers’ perceptions of and attitudes toward acquiring and communicating in Hebrew as a second language. The context of the study is a complex education system dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. East Jerusalem’s education system is divided between schools supervised by Israel’s Ministry of Education and those supervised by its Palestinian Authority counterpart. Israel’s Ministry of Education requires that teachers in its East Jerusalem public schools learn basic Hebrew language and communication at an Israeli institute of higher education. This research seeks to examine a sampling of East Jerusalem teachers’ perceptions and attitudes toward acquiring Hebrew as a second language and communicating in it with the majority Jewish society. Study participants, all Arab teachers from East Jerusalem who had studied Hebrew at an Israeli college, were asked about their command and usage of Hebrew in several open-ended questions provided on a structured questionnaire that offered the respondents the ability to elaborate on their thoughts. The responses were subsequently assessed qualitatively. The study found that the participants’ willingness to learn Hebrew for daily communication purposes was motivated primarily by instrumental and pragmatic considerations. According to the findings, the participants’ communication in Hebrew was accompanied by feelings that in the process of acquiring and using the language, they were jeopardizing their sense of Palestinian identity as Palestinian citizens under Israeli rule. These perceptions arose in the context of the precarious status of East Jerusalem. The finding that national identification appears to impede second language acquisition has important implications for national language policy in similar regions.


Arab second-language teacher, East Jerusalem, Hebrew, language education

Erratum: This manuscript was reuploaded on July 26, 2023, after an error in the ordering of the authors on p. 49 by the Publications Office came to light. Previously, Nurit Buchweitz was listed at lead author in error, not Abed Al-Rahman Mar'i. This order is now corrected.