Education in Arab Countries of the Near East: Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon

By Roderic D. Matthews; Matta Akrawi | Go to book overview

Chapter 16
THE HEBREW EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

MODERN HEBREW education in Palestine was initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century by European Jews who became interested in the welfare of Palestinian Jews, numbering about 25,000 at that time. Schools were founded by individuals, Jewish philanthropic societies, and, significantly, by Jewish national organizations that sprang up in tzarist Russia during the eighties and aimed at Jewish colonization in Palestine and the revival of the Jewish tradition there.

While most of these schools used the language of their founders' country, some--notably those fostered by societies of Russian origin, the Hovevei Israel and the Bilu, which were interested in bringing about a revival of the Hebrew language--began to teach school subjects in Hebrew. As Hebrew up to that time had been the language of religious liturgy and literature, but not that of everyday speech, its revival required considerable effort. Textbooks had to be written and terms for scientific concepts had to be coined before Hebrew could become the medium of instruction. It was natural that the advocates of teaching in Hebrew should sooner or later come into conflict with some of those who taught in the vernacular languages. Such a conflict, developing shortly before World War I, led to the foundation of a Jewish Board of Education (Vaad Hachinuch), which in 1914 assumed control of 12 schools in which all instruction was in Hebrew. Financial support was shared by Jewish settlers in Palestine and the Zionist Organization. From this nucleus the present Zionist school system developed.

At first only elementary schools were established, but in 1905 the world's first Hebrew secondary school, the Hertzliah Gymnasium, was opened in Tel-Aviv. Soon a second, the Hebrew Gymnasium, opened in Jerusalem, and in 1912 foundations were laid for the Haifa Technion.1

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1
Much of the information on the Hebrew educational system in Palestine is based on the following references: Executive of the Vaad Leumi, Memorandum Submitted to the Commission of Enquiry into the Jewish Education System (Mimeographed; Jerusalem: Vaad Leumi, 1945), pp. 1-4; Noah Nardi, Education in Palestine, 1920-1945 ( Washington, D.C.: Zionist Organization of America, 1945), pp. 17-19; Isaac B. Berkson, "Zionist SchoolSystem,"

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