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India’s only Hebrew Univ teacher hopes Modi-Netanyahu bonhomie will boost Israel language

JNU in New Delhi is the only university in the country and Imam the only faculty to teach Hebrew language.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2017 16:30 IST
Gulam Jeelani
Gulam Jeelani
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Community Reception Programme, in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday.(PTI Photo)

Khurshid Imam is simply delighted by the deepening ties between India and Israel following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The assistant professor at the Centre of Arabic and African studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) teaches Hebrew – the country’s sole university teacher to do so – and hopes closer ties between the two countries will lead to greater interest among Indians to learn Israel’s native language.

“We have been running the language course since 2006. Only internal students can opt for it. Now that the relations between the two countries are improving, we expect to see the introduction of a proposed certificate/diploma course so that students outside JNU can also enroll themselves,” said Imam, a bearded, skull cap-donning devout Muslim who returned after a degree from Israel in 2000.

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“The two countries have talked about enhancing people-to-people relations which covers academics as well,” he added.

Khurshid Imam believes the demand to learn Hebrew is set to grow. (HT PHOTO)

JNU is the only university in the country and Imam the only faculty to teach Hebrew language. It is, however, an optional subject available to students enrolled in other courses. The course in Hebrew language is currently run in two batches of 30 students each.

But Imam believes the demand to learn Hebrew is set to grow. “Israel is a strong political and economic nation and hence its native language will have enough scope.”

Apart from the language course at JNU, Presidency University in Kolkata offers an undergraduate course in Global Jewish History and OP Jindal Global University in Haryana has a Centre for Israel Studies.

“We expect the Hebrew language would soon be reintroduced at University of Mumbai as well. The Tel Aviv University of Israel plans to establish a Centre for Israel Studies there as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two varsities,” Navras J Aafreedi, a Muslim-Jewish relations activist who teaches at the department of History at Kolkata’s Presidency University, said.

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Besides JNU, Hebrew is also taught by a number of Christian seminaries and theological centres, like the United Theological College of Bangalore and at entres established by the Israeli Jewish organization in Manipur and Mizoram.

First Published: Jul 06, 2017 13:12 IST