An Experience that Forever Changed My Worldview


Published on : 09/11/2017
By : Arista Asmawati

An Experience that Forever Changed My Worldview

A long time ago, I watched an Israeli movie called “Or”, a teenager works a variety of odd jobs to  support herself and her prostitute mother. I think I have never sympathized with the Israeli community like this before. It was so emotional to feel the pain of others,  to understand their problems and that “they” are human beings exactly like “us”; they have the same problems, the same dreams, even though it is through a movie, but it reflects the reality.

After watching the movie, I thought to myself, what would happen if more Muslims around the world studied Hebrew and watched this specific movie, would they be aware of the fact  that we are all human beings? Would they understand that life is cruel for “them” exactly as it is cruel for “us”? That we share the same problems, the same dreams?


I have been studying Hebrew and Judaism for 7 years, as a student and after that as a teaching assistant. I have had ample time and opportunity to study every aspect of Hebrew. My approach towards Israel has changed fundamentally since I started to learn this magnificent language and to see Israeli society closely, to understand what they are going through, what they are dreaming of, through their language, rather than the global media propaganda against Israel.

Ignorance about the others leads to mistrust and distortion as well as the misuse of a language. It always makes me laugh to hear Hamas’ songs in Hebrew, and it proves my theory that Hebrew does not open its doors to those who hate it, only those who love and have good intentions.

In my opinion, Hebrew should be taught in Arab countries as the central component of peace building, and not to misuse it for hateful goals. Misapplication of a language brings disharmony but when it carefully taught and used, it could bring mutual understanding and co-operation. Hebrew when appropriately used promotes peace and enhances the opportunities of mutual understanding, a better chance to understand the Israeli society as an ordinary society just like us. The sad reality is that the situation is not so different in Israel; Arabic is seen more as a strategic tool than a bridge for understanding. Therefore, Hebrew & Arabic teachers from all over the world should be fully aware of their key role in promoting a culture of peace and developing a spirit of tolerance and pluralism.

We, as Muslims, do not always take into consideration the wealth of Hebrew cultural wisdom, insight and history that we lose by closing our minds to it. I think far too much attention is paid to the ways in which Hebrew & Arabic divide us rather than the massive potential they have to bring us together! What if rather than seeing language “barriers” we saw language opportunities?

We need to look at the conflict from our opponent’s point of view and learn more about this person or group’s perspective and motivations; this would be very helpful for conflict resolution. Moreover, this could be accomplished through learning Hebrew, when Muslims, all around the world, be exposed to the magnificent Hebrew culture, the beautiful poetry of Nathan Zach and Shmuel Agnon, the movies of Ze’ev Revach and Yehuda Barkan,  the songs of Arik Einstein and Haim Moshe, etc. Learning & Teaching Hebrew have exposed me to the human side of Israelis, and their rich culture. Maybe someday you can learn it too?

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