JCPA training course aims for understanding of Muslim, Arab life

Former Shin Bet director and current minister of agriculture Avi Dichter says that understanding Arab mindset is crucial.

The opening session of a new JCPA program on understanding the Middle East. Photo by Uriah Bergil.
The opening session of a new JCPA program on understanding the Middle East. Photo by Uriah Bergil.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) launches the first cycle of “Speaking Middle East,” a specialized program allowing participants, third-year students and above from various fields, to familiarize themselves with the Arab and Muslim world through a series of diplomatic engagements with Israeli and international diplomats, journalists and senior security personnel, including Jason Greenblatt, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, and Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research division at the Israel Defense Forces’ Intelligence Corps.

At the event’s opening event, former Shin Bet director and current minister of agriculture and rural development, Avi Dichter, greeted the course participants, stating, “Beyond learning the Arabic language, it is essential to understand the Arab mindset, which differs from ours. The students of this new course will have a unique opportunity to do so with the expertise of top professionals in the field. I applaud this amazing initiative, which will enable you to represent Israel honorably in the Arab world.”

At the beginning of the Iron Swords War, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs decided to provide the global public with real-time Israeli information in an effort to raise consciousness during the conflict.

In addition to establishing a leading social media project with the help of Arabic and English speakers called “October 7th,” the institute recognized the need to provide practical tools for Israelis to understand, speak and empathize with their neighbors in the Middle East.

“With the start of the war, the concept has changed, and Arabic language and culture have become important and even essential tools for every Israeli, especially those seeking to participate in Israel’s efforts in the Middle East,” explains Aviram Bellaishe, an expert on the Middle East and vice president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

He continues, “this is particularly necessary for analyzing threats and risks, in order to understand ‘Middle Eastern thinking,’ to build bridges with regional countries and expand the historical Abraham Accords.”

The new training will be held in Jerusalem and Ramat HaSharon in cooperation with “Meduberet,” an Arab-language teaching school. It will include professional courses in spoken Arabic, diplomacy, Islam and international law, as well as workshops and field trips.

The cohort will meet and have discussions with diplomats, journalists, and commentators from the Arab and Muslim world. It will also have practical workshops, field trips and a living experience with an Arab family. At the end of the course, participants will have the opportunity to join a regional leadership program upon completion of their specialization.

The more than 40 participants—students from various disciplines, including Middle Eastern studies, international relations, engineering, and computer science—come from all parts of the country.

Veteran Arab Israeli journalist and Palestinian affairs analyst Khaled Abu Toameh, one of the leaders of the program, underscored the importance of exposing Israeli Jews not only to the Arabic language, but also to Arab culture, society, traditions, media and diplomacy.

“This unique training session will hopefully allow Israeli Jews to get a better understanding of their Arab neighbors and improve communication between the two sides,” he says, adding that speaking the Arabic language does not necessarily mean that one fully understands the Arab culture and mindset, and that is what makes this course unique.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is one of Israel’s leading policy, diplomacy and communications institutes. Established in 1976, the JCPA has transformed from its long-time primary focus as a research institute on regional security, strategy and international law.

Since 2023, JCPA has evolved into a “do tank,” becoming a trusted partner and fashioning shared security policy and strategic relationships with many decision-makers and public-opinion influencers both in Israel, the and the Arab and Muslim worlds producing joint security initiatives, position papers, conferences, monographs, books podcasts, and extensive social-media activity. The center initiates and develops overt and under the radar strategic relationships with senior representatives of Arab and Muslim countries, and stands at the forefront of the fight against BDS and global antisemitism.

The specialization workshops will be conducted in collaboration with “Meduberet,” a leading college for Arabic language and culture studies. The college lecturers, all former security personnel who have lived the Arab language and culture for many years, believe that Arabic is not just a language. Therefore, great emphasis is placed on Arab culture, customs and traditions, do’s and don’ts, proverbs, blessings and manners, and even body language.

The CEO of “Meduberet,” Hayim Malka, is a security-system graduate who served in the Shin Bet and has lived the Arab language and culture for over 15 years, gaining knowledge and experience that have led to unprecedented achievements and made him understand how critical it is for everyone to learn the Arabic language and use it. Since its inception, “Meduberet” has conducted dozens of courses and workshops, and lectures in the field of language, Arab culture and Islam.

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The Jerusalem Center was founded in 1976 by the late Prof. Daniel J. Elazar. It is led by Israel’s former UN ambassador and foreign ministry director general Dr. Dore Gold.
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