Contemporary Hebrew courses offered for first time in a decade



By Morgan Eads | News Editor

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For 12 years, Tikva Meroz-Aharoni lived in Israel just nine kilometers from the Gaza Strip. The sounds of missiles and mortars regularly rocked her Ashkelon home.

But this is not the picture she plans on depicting in her new Hebrew courses being offered at UK.

“I want to show a different side of Israel,” Meroz-Aharoni said. “Even under these circumstances, a beautiful culture is being built (in Israel). It’s a miracle.”

After more than a decade without offering contemporary Hebrew courses, UK is taking advantage of a grant that will allow it to introduce pieces of the language and literature to campus.

Janice Fernheimer, director of Jewish studies, said the university has not been able to offer the courses in the past because they did not have a full-time professor who could teach.

Last year, Fernheimer applied for a grant to change that.

The university was awarded the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise grant, which allowed the Jewish studies program to bring in a professor from Israel.

Amid stiff competition, the committee decided on Meroz-Aharoni because of her background and unique perspective on the Middle East, Fernheimer said.

Meroz-Aharoni plans on using her experiences as a writer to bring unique opportunities to her students, she said.

Her connections to Israel’s film and book industries have allowed Meroz-Aharoni to set up Skype interviews and guest speakers for her students.

One particular guest Meroz-Aharoni hopes to have flown to UK is Ron Leshem, who authored a best-selling Israeli novel called “Beaufort.”

He also co-authored the film adaptation of the book, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Above all else, Meroz-Aharoni said she sees herself as a representative of Israeli culture in America.

“The students are going to go on a wonderful trip and make beautiful discoveries,” she said.

She hopes to show students that the charms of Israel outweigh the strains of conflict.

She said her house and family are still in Ashkelon, near the shelling of the Gaza Strip.

“We are strong and we believe this is where we should live,” Meroz-Aharoni said. “I will never leave my home.”

Meroz-Aharoni also stressed the courses would be flexible to students’ needs. This way, she said, they will be able to better learn the language and discuss the culture.

Fernheimer said the courses are an opportunity that students should not pass up.

They are not limited to Jewish students and the department wants to emphasize that any student can take the courses, she said.

“Not everyone can study abroad,” Fernheimer said. “So, it’s great for these students to have access to teachers from all over the world.