GAZA — There are few electives in the Hamas-run high schools here. Students can study health and the environment, or they can learn French. And, starting this fall at some schools, they will be able to sign up for a new course called Know Your Enemy.
It is a Hebrew class, beginning with the Aleph Bet — there is a six-word Arabic acrostic of the 22 Hebrew letters to help students remember. It has been nearly two decades since the language was taught in Gaza’s schools, and last month, after much debate, Hamas officials chose to add it to the optional curriculum rather than Turkish or German.“Through the Hebrew language we can understand the structure of the Israeli society, the way they think,” explained Mahmoud Matar, director general of the Hamas-run Ministry of Education here.“The Arabic language is a basic thing for the Israelis, and they use it to achieve what they want,” Dr. Matar added. “We look at Israel as an enemy. We teach our students the language of the enemy.”
For all its problems of poverty and restricted movement, the Gaza Strip is a place that prides itself on education: illiteracy among its youth was less than 1 percent in 2010, according to the World Bank, and there are five universities within its 139 square miles. There are many mountainous challenges for its forlorn schools, with their dilapidated buildings where classes of 50 or more meet in triple shifts; the United Nations World Relief Agency is building eight new schools, but officials here say the population, 1.6 million and expected to double in a generation, needs hundreds more.
Considering the bazillions that have been poured into Gaza, there is no reason for "forlorn schools with their dilapidated buildings." One suspects they are there purely for the optics--the bad optics--which seem to have worked like a charm on this NYT scribbler.The schools teach English, though with mixed success. Wandering through the alleyways of the beach refugee camp, children and teenage boys call out, “How are you?” to a foreigner but have no reply when faced with a “Good, how are you?”Now, seven years after Israel’s withdrawal from the strip and five years after Hamas wrested control of it from the Palestinian Authority, students will begin grappling with Hebrew...