17 thoughts on “Yeshiva Bochers Study Arabic – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I have ran into many religious Jews who study Arabic. Most whom I have met in this category were quite far to the right politically. It seems that Arabic is quite similar to Hebrew, and some works of Judaism were composed in Arabic (A Guide To The Perplexed).

    1. Arabic is not “quite similar” to Hebrew. Both languages are related to each other & have some lingiustic commonalities. But they are not quite similar. A Guide to the Perplexed, according to my understanding was composed in Judeo-Arabic, which is not the same as Arabic.

  2. Smelling salts, quick! I’m fainting. You have something good to say about the Orthodox… or anyone for that matter! Seriously, weren’t you struck by the low number given in the article of general schools that teach Arabic? Isn’t that astonishing?

    1. You have something good to say about the Orthodox… or anyone for that matter!

      What you really mean to say is that I don’t have anything good to say about views of Israelis supporting the Occupation and their American Jewish supporters. But that’s quite different from what YOU said. Oh & I’ve been critical of some of yr views as well. I suppose as far as you’re concerned that’s the same as not having anything good to say about “anyone.” But it really isn’t.

      Personally, I think every Israeli should learn Arabic. I think the language should be offered more widely here in the U.S. in high school and college. I was astonished that as many Orthodox schools offered it as the article mentioned.

  3. There are quite a few “settlers” who study Arabic and use it. I know some. After all, in general settlers have more contact with Arabs that do Israelis in general, and the lifestyle and values of religious settlers is far closer to that of the Arabs than the average secular Israeli. It might surprise you to know that many settlers have maintained close contact with the Arab neighbors, which was very difficult during the periods of extreme violence. I spoke to a resident of Kiryat Arba, someone you would certainly not like and he told me of his renewing old friendships with local Hevron Arabs. And this person is a “right-winger”, unlike Rav Froman, whose political views are very hard to categorize.

    1. I doubt the “friendships” you describe can be very deep considering that the settlers are usurping the land and lives of the Palestinians w. whom they claim to have such close relations. Certainly settlers and local Palestinians may have interactions w. ea. other, perhaps some even friendly. But given the beatings, abuse & even death meted out by settlers on local Palestinians, you’re living in a fever dream if you think these two groups can ever be “buds.”

      If these settlers were truly interested in knowing their Palestinian neighbors & integrating w. them they’d be willing, as Rabbi Froman is, to live under Palestinian sovereignty when there is a peace settlement.

      1. Arab culture has somewhat different rules than Western culture.

        When I was working in the OT, I occasionally would take part in discussions with Palestinian officials and businessmen.

        Sometimes I would have to ask whether we had an apparent aggreement that was actually disagreement on a proposal or a rejection of it.

  4. I studied Arabic with a Palestinian friend who also knew Hebrew. He pointed out that there are many words in common. Another Jewish friend is doing a PhD on Leo Strauss and knows Arabic well. He says that it was written in Medieval Arabic but with Hebrew letters.

    1. Having many words in common does not mean they are the same language or even nearly the same. English has many words in common with Latin, but they are only related languages, not the same.

      Judeo-Arabic is not the same as Arabic.

    1. Transcribing Judeo-Arabic in Hebrew letters during the pre-modern period was no more unusual than transcribing Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, Karaite Kipchak, Judeo-Greek, or Judeo-Italian in Hebrew letters.

      There is no reason to believe the Arabic-script Arabic text of Guide to the Perplexed was unavailable from the beginning of its circulation in the 12th century.

      Maimonides himself was certainly literate in Arabic script and had no problem with studying Arabic philosophy.

      His family respected Islam — especially his grandson Obadyah (Abdallah), whose synagogue followed the form and style of a Mosque.

      1. I’m not sure when any of his major works were “readable” by Arabs/Muslims, but Jewish scholars at the time used transliteration to limit understanding to their target audience, Jews. Dr. Sherwin Nuland speaks about this in his book Maimonides:

        “The Commentary’s cause was not helped by it’s having been written in Arabic, but Maimonides had little choice if he was to reach the ordinary man whose ability to understand Hebrew was deficient. Although fluency in the Hebrew language was far from universal, almost everyone could read the letters. By using them to write in Arabic, Jewish authors of the time assured themselves of an orthographic barrier, making it unlikely that Muslims would take the trouble attempt penetration of their text.”

        Maiaimonides, Sherwin B. Nuland 2005 Schocken Books

        1. I vaguely remember seeing a piece of an Arabic-script version of the Guide to the Perplexed during a trip to the UK a few years ago. I thought that it was a 13th century manuscript and that it was at Cambridge, but I could not find it in the online catalog.

          The 14th century Franciscan Ramón Llull knew the Guide to the Perplexed in Arabic according to his own writings. It is more likely that he had an Arabic script version, but it is quite possible that he read it in Hebrew characters.


          Even those few scholars in Yemen who had some interest in Judaism turned to Jewish scholars when they wanted to learn about Jewish views or to ask them to produce Arabic renditions of Jewish sources. This was the case, possibly unique, of the transcription to Arabic characters of The Guide to the Perplexed, the philosophic work of Maimonides, originally written in Judeo-Arabic. The transcription was done during the 15th century in Yemen, probably by a Jew requested to by a Muslim scholar who, although informed about Maimonides and his famous book, was not able to read a text written in Hebrew characters. It seems that this very manuscript was used by al-Shawkani, the well known Muslim jurist (d. 1834), as may be learnt from his polemical book against the Jews of Sanaa when he refers to the Maimonidean philosophy. His direct appeal to the Jewish San’ani scholars in order to be equipped with the Jewish material derived from the short, but famous, treatise written by them to answer his question pertaining to the issue of material or spiritual reward in the world to come according to Jewish conviction.

  5. You know, the haredi yeshivas in the NYC area (Lakewood, etc.) have assimilated a lot of Arab Jews. Perhaps this is a concession to their culture.

  6. David Shasha wrote just on this subject in his newsletter. He says that while it’s a start, the Jewish interest in Arabic is NOT because of love for Arabic culture, but inherently tied to the I-P conflict.

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