Intensive Arabic Semester

IAS students hiking through the Negev.
Price Units

Every year we offer a 5-month semester from mid-January to mid-June.
During the Intensive Arabic Semester, you will take part in a variety of courses both inside and outside the classroom.


Classes take place five days a week, with a morning session and an afternoon session every day. Our program includes courses in four subjects: Arabic LanguageHebrew LanguageJewish Studies, and Middle East History/Current Events. The Arabic  courses cover both Modern Standard Arabic (100 hours) and Palestinian colloquial Arabic (400 hours), which makes our program unique among those in the region. We choose to focus on colloquial Arabic because we believe that today one cannot communicate or even understand the Arabic media without knowing spoken Arabic in at least one dialect.

Study Tracks and a Personal Project

Students are free to choose a combination of courses to create their own study track that aligns with their individual goals. There is an option to do a personal project in an Arab or Jewish community instead of one of the courses.

Field Trips
In addition to our classroom courses, our students go on field trips throughout the region to understand on a firsthand basis the issues facing local communities here in Israel.

Immersion Program

Our students also visit the local Arab community [–host-family.html] every week. Each student has a host family, providing them with an opportunity to interact with the Arab community, practice their Arabic and learn firsthand about the Arab culture.

Tour to Jordan

We conclude our semester with a 5 day trip to Jordan guided in Arabic (at an additional fee). Our students are able to put their conversational skills to use whilst enjoying the beautiful sites Jordan has to offer.

Family Environment

A typical course has 14-16 students. Through our intensive program, we become a family of students and teachers coming from a large diversity of religions and origins, from all over the world.

We believe that our program offers a holistic and hands-on approach to language learning, which is unparalleled in comparison to other programs. We believe that when studying abroad it is important to experience the local culture as much as possible. Through learning both inside and outside the classroom, our students get a firsthand and personal understanding of the many cultures that make up Israeli society.

The total cost of the program is $11,900 USD. Most of our students receive grants from Masa and other organizations to help them pay for the cost, and often cover several thousand dollars of the tuition. You can find more information about funding sources from our Scholarships and Financial Aid page.

The cost for the complete program includes housing, payment for all courses, five hot meals a week for the entire semester, insurance for the entire duration of the program, along with frequent trips throughout Israel. Students are responsible for their airfare to and from Israel, but program tuition covers the majority of costs during the duration of their stay.

For students who elect to create individualized tracks (only available to those without Masa grants), prices by component and full tracks are below:

Program Components:

1. Arabic Studies – $7,680 (including History of the Middle East course, field trips, and Arab host family)
2. Hebrew Ulpan or ~60 hours additional immersion activities in Arab communities – $720
3. Jewish History course or ~100 hours additional immersion activities communities – $ 1,200
4. Accommodation and food – $ 2,300

Sample Tracks:

A. The full course – $11,900 (1+2+3+4)
B. Arabic Studies, Accommodation and food – $9,980 (1+4)
C. Arabic Studies, Hebrew Ulpan, Accommodation and food – $10,700 (1+2+4)
D. Arabic Studies, Hebrew Ulpan – $8,400 (1+2)
E. Arabic Studies, Jewish History course, Hebrew Ulpan or additional immersion activities – $9,600 (1+2+3)

As an undergraduate in the U.S., Sheera Talpaz studied Comparative Literature, focusing on Modern Hebrew poetry. She then decided to compare the literary experience of both Israeli and Palestinian poets as part of her graduate work. Knowing that she couldn’t work in translation, learning Arabic was her next step.

Sheera joined the Spring 2012 Intensive Arabic Semester (IAS) program, seeking a foundation for an enriched literary experience before applying for her PhD, and realized at the end she had achieved much more!

While on the program, Sheera spent a large portion of her time getting to know Afnan Mawassi, a woman from the Israeli-Arab city Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, who also has a passion for poetry and literature. Together, they read, translated, and discussed the works of both Arab and American poets. Through language, their friendship strengthened as they learned more about each other’s culture. According to Sheera, “it felt like an instant yet lifelong connection.”

She learned not only the Arabic language, but also about people from a different culture: who they are and what they care about. Together Sheera and Afnan discussed politics, social issues, and life in general. “It felt open from the outset,” says Sheera “and the warmth of our conversations piqued my interests further.”

“The IAS program helped me develop relationships with people in the Arab community as well as with the professors, who continue to be a great resource.” says Sheera, “Whatever it is you are looking for—culture, poetry, language, politics—there are always extra things that this program can offer if you take the initiative.”

Sheera hopes to bring people together through literature, specifically Israelis and Palestinians, and there is no doubt that she will accomplish this.

-Sheera via.

Will Robbins:  "When I graduated I had this idea that I could better understand myself by understanding more of the world.  I called it an exercise in perspective, seeing that I had little money to travel the world to really experience its people, I had to choose wisely the destination that could offer me the most challenging exercise.  For me that place was Israel,"

"Now, I am not Jewish and the fine people of Mississippi and my home in Alabama do not just throw around the word kibbutz often in daily life, so when I read about kibbutz, I had to read more and my research ultimately led me to the MASA and the Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester.  Learning Arabic and Hebrew language from an organization dedicated to reconciling Arab and Israeli relations seemed perfect for my exercise in perspective – I could challenge myself intellectually, socially and culturally amongst students from all over the world and so here I am – and I am certainly not disappointed "

Kerrie Sharon: "I decided to leave my job and life at home in order to pursue an interest in peace education and learning more about the ways that education was being used as a pathway to build confidence and co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel,"

"I have a firm belief in the power of education to build bridges in conflict situations from my work at home as a citizenship teacher.  A personal interest in the conflict in Israel led to my being very interested in the various peace and co-existence education projects going on in the country and was looking for an avenue to come to Israel and work in this field.  I eventually realized that I would have to speak the languages in order to undertake effective educational work so the program was ideal for me in terms of allowing me to be associated with Givat Haviva and learn about their work, whilst also developing language abilities."

"This program has allowed me to learn beyond the rhetoric, through classes and through meeting people from both communities – to learn to understand more deeply the motivations for Israel's actions, to find new ways of understanding the issues and dilemmas underlying the painful and enduring conflict." 

Seth Norman: 28 year old from San-Fransisco, University of California at Berkeley alum, and a former officer in the US army, serving in Kuwait and Iraq.

"Last July when I returned to base in Frankfurt from Iraq I was given two weeks leave.  I decided on a whim to spend them in Tel Aviv, basically looking for a little bit of privacy in peaceful surroundings after spending 15 months with 80 men in a 60 man tent,"

"I had a great time and signing up for the Intensive Arabic Semester answered my search to find a reason to spend time in Israel and learn more about my heritage.  In Iraq I always had to work with interpreters and found it really frustrating seeing all this beautiful script everywhere and not being able to read or understand a thing."

"I was raised with the full understanding that I was Jewish, but with none of the religious and cultural foundations – this is all now being strengthened during my study period here in Israel." 

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