LECTURE AND CONVERSATION: THE POLITICS OF ARABIC IN ISRAEL - SUPPRESSION, CREATION, TRANSLATION
Of all languages spoken today, Arabic is the closest to Hebrew. It is the lingua franca of the Middle East, the language of the Palestinians in Israel, and the language of the cultural heritage of nearly half the Jewish population in the country. Moreover, Arabic was an official language in Israel for seven decades (since 2018, and as part of the Jewish Nation-State Law, it has been downgraded to “language of special status”) and it is a compulsory subject in school. Nevertheless, Jews in Israel are almost totally ignorant when it comes to Arabic: most do not understand or speak the language, and those who do are by and large a product of or en route to Military Intelligence. How did this anomaly come about? In his lecture, Yonathan Mendel surveys the status (both official and social) of Arabic in Israel, how the language was suppressed, what the consequences of this process are, and whether there is hope in language-oriented projects, which include translation, joint Jewish-Palestinian work, and bottom-up initiatives that focus on Arabic. Yonatan Mendel is a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the head of the Arabic Language and Culture Division. His main research interests are the position, status, and teaching of Arabic in Israel; Jewish-Arab relations as reflected in language and culture; and the sociology, politics, and practice of translating from Arabic into Hebrew. He is also the associate editor of Maktoob, a book series dedicated to the translation of Arabic literature into Hebrew that is based on a binational and bilingual translation model. As a translator, he focuses on Palestinian literature, and among his translations are Walking on Winds by Salman Natour (2017), Au Revoir Akka by Alaa Hlehel (2018), Running in Place by Atef Abu Seif (2022), and The Cursed by Muhammad Ali Taha (2023).In English.Admission is free; registration is required.
Dr. Yonatan Mendel
Prof. Dr. Roni Mann