Alon Naveh ’17 spent six years learning Arabic in the IDF’s elite Intelligence unit 8200. It was only at Shalem, however, that he achieved fluency. “Now, I can converse with native speakers easily and confidently,” he explains. After earning an exemption from Arabic in his sophomore year, Alon began studying Farsi. “With fluent Arabic and Farsi, I can really attempt to understand the minds and motivations of the key players in the region. And then I can take an active role in shaping Israel’s security, diplomacy, and public policy.”
The emphasis on fluency, unique to Shalem, grants students an authentic, unmediated window onto Muslim society and the Arab world. The means by which it is achieved are unique, too: an intensive Arabic boot camp; a summer program designed to immerse students, so much as possible, in Israeli-Arab life; twice-weekly meetings with native Arabic speakers; and even a course whose texts are Arab countries’ YouTube videos, Facebook and blog postings, and online newspaper columns.
Along with foundational courses on the key philosophical, theological, and historical texts of Islam, the major enables its graduates to appreciate, and address, the complexity of the challenges Israel faces in calling the Middle East home.