Young French diplomats are flocking to learn the Hebrew language, Yedi'ot Aharonot reports, and for two main reasons: Tel Aviv is a great city in which to serve and, having served there, one's chances to be posted in Kabul or Baghdad are minimized. As the website "Politique arabe de la France" points out, this is despite Hebrew not being one of the ten obligatory "Oriental" languages a diplomat must master at the Quai d'Orsay.
Comments: (1) How deliciously ironic. (2) Does the same logic apply to Richard Jones, the long-time Arabist who just began his tour as U.S. ambassador to Israel? (September 29, 2005) Feb. 5, 2015 update: Apparently, that same logic did apply to Jones: nearly a decade later, one notes that after his stint in Israel, he has been posted for seven years to Paris, where he currently serves as deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Egyptian college students have taken up Hebrew, again reports Yedi'ot Aharonot. According to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
over 1,400 Egyptian students are currently enrolled in full-time Hebrew studies programs. More than 10 Egyptian Universities currently offer Hebrew courses, usually as part of Oriental Language faculties that also teach Turkish and Persian. Two major Egyptian universities, Ain Shams University and al-Azhar University, even boast a separate Hebrew language faculty. This is a major accomplishment, especially in universities that are considered bastions of strong anti-Israel sentiments. One Hebrew lecturer, an Egyptian that has never visited Israel, recently told an Israeli diplomat that he teaches his students Hebrew through Ha'Gashash Ha'chiver comedy skits and Israeli music. The lecturer even asked the Israeli diplomat for new movies to show his students, stressing that they must show absolutely no sex or nudity, or he could be charged with corrupting his students with Israeli pornography.
Curiosity accounts for some of this interest, but also a desire to "know the enemy." Indeed, many of the students to Hebrew studies programs work for Egyptian intelligence. (December 20, 2007)
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism, Middle East studies
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