דלג לתוכן ראשי

Madrasa’s story

A social, technological, community-oriented initiative for learning Colloquial Arabic. For everyone, for free.

Our goal is to promote better communication between the different parts of Israeli society. Our project combines online studies through interactive courses and a rich content library, with ongoing community activity in social media and study groups throughout the country.

We can’t communicate in Arabic, even though it should actually be pretty natural…

Society in Israel and in the Middle East is steeped in the Arabic language. It is the mother tongue of 22% of the population of Israel. Moreover, many of the Jewish citizens whose families came from North Africa and Arab countries have a cultural and historic connection with the language. And yet, the overwhelming majority (97%!) of Jewish people in Israel can’t speak Arabic, and the connection with the language is gradually dwindling. Furthermore, Arabic studies in schools and universities are very limited and focus almost exclusively on Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. So that instead of the partnership and understanding that language has the power to create, we have a language barrier that perpetuates the estrangement, animosity, and fear between the communities.

Our story began in Jerusalem, at the end of 2014

In late 2014, Gilad began giving free Arabic lessons in his parents’ living room. The students begged him to upload the videos to the internet… and, as the saying goes, the rest is history! A group of friends came together to film, edit, write, and upload the videos, and so the first Madrasa website and Facebook page were born - open and accessible to everyone for free. It was an immediate success. In a very short time, we had thousands of people learning from our website, and we continued working, as volunteers, to supply our community’s growing demand for new lessons and educational content. In 2016 we became a registered NGO, and in 2017 we decided to take our initiative to the next level: developing a new, cutting-edge interactive course to fit the needs of our students. A course that will not only give access to content to anyone who wishes to learn, but will also provide an educational program and enable continuous study and use of the language.

Learning to communicate is not just our goal, it’s the gist of our social and pedagogical approach

The choices we’ve made of teaching Colloquial Arabic, and focusing on the urban Palestinian dialect and on everyday topics, all spring from here. This is also the basis for our teaching method, which caters for students who have many other demands on their time. For such students, persevering in their studies and finding opportunities for continuous practice often pose a serious challenge. This is why we use short, clear educational videos and put great emphasis on various exercises and games. The most important element that supports the learning process is our student community. When you practice together everywhere (Facebook, Whatsapp, newsletter, study groups, chats, forums, etc.) - you practice more, and you find it easier to persevere.

The project is growing at a rapid pace

While developing new courses (which we hope to publish during 2019), we are also working on creating physical and virtual spaces where our community can meet and practice: practice meetings (based on our course) that we plan to organize in Israel’s central cities; and a video chat platform (under development) where students can speak with each other and with Arabic speakers from all over the country. And it doesn’t stop here. We are working on creating study groups in society’s most central junctions: large employers, public servants (workers of the health system, for example), and social activists.

Our Team

גילעד סוויט

Gilad Sevitt

Founder and R&D director. Holds a BA in Sociology, Anthropology, Arabic, and Buddhism. Lives in Jerusalem and is interested in ecology, music, and (obviously) languages.

דניאל דותן

Daniel Dotan

Lawyer and social activist. Founder and CEO of Madrasa. A football addict, photographer, and writer of cryptic crosswords (only in Hebrew for now), and father of Alma.

נע׳ם אבו ליל

Nagham Abu Leil

Content editor at Madrasa. BA student in Middle Eastern Studies and Linguistics. Lives in Jerusalem and is always late

מיכל פורת

Michal Porat

Our new media director. BA student in International Relationships and Middle Eastern Studies. Lives in Jerusalem and loves “Game of Thrones”.

איה ח׳לאילה

Aia Khalaily

Translator, teacher, and content editor. MA student in International Development, likes to travel around the world and play board games!

ורד קיסר

Vered Keasar

27 years old and lives in Jerusalem, content writer and administrator at Madrasa. Holds a BA in Arabic Language and literature and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Public Health. Likes languages, nice views, and cats.

Board of Directors

נתנאל כץ

Nathaniel Katz

Chairman of the organization. Organizational psychologist, founder and co-CEO of “Machon Manhigut”. Has worked with Madrasa since it’s beginning

אלון פרגמן

Dr. Alon Fragman

Translator and researcher of Arabic language teaching, trains Arabic teachers at the Tel Aviv University School of Education.

דניאל שפע

Daniel Shefa

Senior editor and producer at the Sports Channel

Thanks Thanks

Shem Barashi, Oren Feld, Matan Eshed, Yuval Katz, Gal Kramarski, Noa Finkelstein, Yarden Lichterman,Amit BenDor, Shachar Gilan, Sharon Komash, Yaniv Gershon, Matan Serry, Mahmoud Shehada, Rajaa Haj Yahia, Maya David, Mo’tasam Bakirat (deceased), Aya Khayria, Thanaa Jawabra, Rawi Musa, Zada Haj, Ariel Kedem, Omer Erlich, Hanan Hussein Dabah, Jihad Abu Snina, Ronen Rothfarb, Itai Katz, Irit Shaham, Menachem Dotan, Miri Hazut, Ohad Weber, Matan Gez, Van Leer Institute, The American Center in Jerusalem, Alliance House, Mazkeka recording studio, Carousela center, Meshulam print, Michal and Dror Winograd.

And of course, everyone who supports or has supported the project over the years