Brandeis, Middlebury to offer Hebrew in Israel

Students will enroll at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Brandeis University and Middlebury College announced this week that they are establishing a study abroad program in Israel that will be conducted exclusively in Hebrew. Located in the city of Beer Sheva, and affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the program will begin offering classes in the spring of 2012.

The curriculum, drawn from Brandeis' Hebrew Language and Literature Program, is designed for high intermediate and advanced Hebrew language students, and all coursework will be conducted in Hebrew. Qualified students will also be able to enroll directly in courses at Ben-Gurion University alongside local students. Students will be housed with Israeli students in residence halls and will adhere to the Middlebury College Language Pledge - a promise to speak no language other than the one they are studying. Anticipated initial enrollment is about 10 to 15 students per semester.

The Israel program is the second collaborative effort between Brandeis and Middlebury. In 2008 the schools started the Brandeis University-Middlebury School of Hebrew, a joint summer program.

"Brandeis is pleased to continue our collaboration with Middlebury College," said Brandeis University's Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Director of Study Abroad J. Scott Van Der Meid. "This new program offers an outstanding combination. Brandeis University brings its historic connections to Israel, emphasis on experiential learning, and its innovative leadership in Hebrew language instruction. Middlebury College boasts a century of experience in language immersion programs."

Dan Terris, vice president for global affairs at Brandeis, called the new program "a natural extension of Brandeis' commitment to being a global liberal arts university. It creates a permanent presence in Israel for Brandeis in partnership with two quality institutions."

Beer Sheva is in the heart of the Negev desert in southern Israel. One of the world's oldest cities, it has been inhabited for some 6,000 years. Located in an area rich with Biblical and archeological history, the city is now a modern regional capital with a population of about 185,000, including a large number of Russian and Ethiopian Jews who arrived in the 1990s.

"Students who participate on this program will be engaged in a city with a diverse population; a true window to the Israeli society," said Prof. Vardit Ringvald, director of the Hebrew Language Program at Brandeis. "It's a chance to live and learn with Israelis while immersing oneself in the Hebrew language."

Michael Geisler, Middlebury's vice president for language schools, schools abroad and graduate programs, called Ben-Gurion an ideal partner for such a program in Israel.  

"Ben-Gurion University, which is seen by many as having one of the strongest and most diversified academic programs in Israel, is an excellent location," said Geisler. "Since the university is well integrated with the town of Beer Sheva, students will find it easier than in many other cities in Israel to gain access to the community. It also offers better opportunities for language immersion since there are fewer English speakers there than in some other Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv."

The new program marks the second full-semester study abroad program introduced this year at Brandeis, following the announcement of the Brandeis in The Hague spring program. This year Brandeis students can choose from among some 250 programs in 70 countries around the world. More than 45 percent of the junior class studies abroad during the academic year, with more students participating in overseas summer programs.

For more detailed information, visit the Study Abroad site or contact the Office of Study Abroad at or 781-736-3483.

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