In his line of duty, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Micah Kasirer, the Judea and Samaria division medical officer, encounters many Palestinians injured in accidents. In many cases, he just doesn't understand what they are saying and has a hard time offering them medical assistance.
But that's about to change. At the age of 38 Kasirer is heading back to school – together with 16 staff officers who are studying Arabic, including Brigadier General Nitzan Alon, who commands the Judea and Samaria Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Huseisi Hitam took charge of the initiative. Arabic lessons take place at the division headquarters twice a week with each class lasting between two to two and a half hours. Hitam's students, ranging from a rank of lieutenant colonel and above, also receive homework and take exams.
"The purpose of these lessons is to teach a basic understanding of the Arabic language" explains Hitam. "So that the division officers will be able to communicate and better understand the Palestinian population."
Hitam's 'day job' is to serve as the division's engineer officer. "I've never taught in my life so students and homework are all new to me. The administration's professional Arabic teachers teach the language and I took it upon myself to run the project. Arabic is my mother tongue and I think it is crucial that the division officers know it," he said.
Students who find the work difficult receive private lessons from Hitam "All in all, I enjoy the change in my routine, but I don't mean to take teaching on as a full time job. I love my job in the division and plan on staying the course," Hitam added.
'An invaluable asset to every Israeli'
Kasirer told Ynet, "It was an experience. The atmosphere was pleasant; we are talking about teaching responsible adults who take the learning material and the learning process very seriously. Lots of material is studied independently in exercise drills." The rest of the division officers look on with envy and ask to take part as well, he adds.
"The progress rate surprised me and now, after five lessons I can construct sentences in Arabic. I must say that the administration's languages school is extremely professional. I may not be able to conduct a fluent conversation in Arabic but I wasn't expecting this level of knowledge and understanding. The teachers use the perfect methods and personally I'm very impressed."
In addition to the experience, Kasirer explains that the Arabic lessons are a meaningful contribution to the officers' activities in the field. "In my line of duty I meet with Palestinians on a daily basis – meetings with doctors and colleagues, regular debriefings, trips and conventions. The last convention was a humanitarian medical convention with doctors from the Palestinian Authority. I took care of a number of traffic accidents and it is so much easier to communicate with the local population and the injured when you understand what they are saying," he said.
"Anyone operating in the Judea and Samaria division is in constant contact with the local population. I think that any Israeli would benefit from studying Arabic, but especially anyone who is in Judea and Samaria and drives on the local roads. This is an invaluable asset which means so much to an officer in the IDF and even more so in this area."
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