GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Students in Gaza have reacted positively to a pilot project to offer Hebrew as an elective subject to ninth-graders in the enclave.
Around 70 percent of schoolchildren in Gaza have chosen Hebrew over French or healthcare since it was introduced to the curriculum in 16 schools this academic year, a Ma'an reporter said.
"Teaching Hebrew as an elective course started this school year in 16 schools, and it will be taught in all schools across the Gaza Strip if it is successful," Ministry of Education official Mustafa Marzouq told Ma'an.
Ninth-grader Ahmad al-Harazin told Ma'an he chose to learn Hebrew because of its similarities to Arabic and because it is spoken by Gaza's neighbors.
"The Hebrew language is very easy to learn, and sometimes I exchange some words I learn in Hebrew with my father," Ahmad said.
Imad Baaluosha, principal of al-Shafi boys school, said Hebrew had been taught in Gaza before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
He said his students enjoyed the subject and that it was an important addition to the Palestinian curriculum.
Twenty years ago, many of Gaza's 1.7 million Palestinians could speak and understand Hebrew from having worked in Israel or spending time in prison there.
But Gaza has been largely isolated from Israel since 1994, when it gained limited self-rule through interim peace deals and Israel shut its gates to most Gazan laborers.
Today, younger adults generally can speak only Arabic despite living next door to Israel and using its shekel currency.
Hebrew is not a part of the school curriculum in the West Bank.Reuters contributed to this report.