Another Zionist icon taking strain?

by Maskil on 27 Aug 2007

According to this article on the Telfed (The South African Zionist Federation (Israel)) website:

The teaching of Hebrew in Israel is in crisis. A government study has shown that even after five months of intensive Hebrew study at ulpan, sixty percent of new immigrants over the age of thirty cannot read, write or speak Hebrew at a minimum level. The situation amongst the Russian immigrant population is even more dire with seventy percent of immigrants not being able to understand the Hebrew television news.

As a result of this study, the Knesset has set up an inter-ministerial committee to study the situation and make recommendations to improve and change the ulpan system.

This suggests a couple of things to me, some of which will no doubt be addressed by this committee:

The ulpan system has been around for a long time, and while the system has been successfully used to teach Hebrew to generations of Olim (immigrants), perhaps it’s time that new models and techniques were investigated.

Some of the most promising new approaches are the work of private enterprise. One hopes that this aspect will not be neglected when options are investigated.

Perhaps a number of alternatives should be offered to new immigrants in addition to the venerable ulpan/kibbutz-ulpan models. Different people learn best in different ways…

Lastly, this points again to the need for conversational Hebrew to become a fixture of the curricula for all Jewish day schools throughout the Diaspora. Multilingualism was once taken for granted in (especially) European Jewish life. Perhaps it’s time to demand that graduates of these schools be reasonably fluent in Hebrew, as well as the vernacular of their country of origin.

How difficult is Hebrew for a new Immigrant?


The article no longer appears on the Telfed Website. Ulpan 101 – How difficult is Hebrew for a new Immigrant? appears to have been published originally Philadelphia Jewish Voice and was written by Michael Rose.

Ulpan 101

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