Judean Desert

Bruchim Haba'im! Welcome to Hebrew language and literature at Carleton.

Why Learn Hebrew?

Think beyond the Bible! Modern Hebrew is a language of vital importance in fields that range from religion and history to international relations, computer science, and medicine. Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people, but you do not need to be Jewish or have any religious school background to be fascinated by Hebrew’s internal logic and its connections between the ancient world and our lifestyles today. At Carleton Hebrew is offered through the Middle Eastern Languages Department.

The Hebrew Language Sequence

Working with the Brandeis Modern Hebrew textbook and audio system, as well as the Israeli internet and films, at Carleton we continually integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Hebrew. Hebrew 101 begins in winter term and can include students with some prior exposure to Hebrew, as well as new beginners. Since reading without vowels develops with grammatical understanding, and Israeli ways of writing script letters can be new, everyone in Hebrew 101 is quickly on the same footing.

Beyond 101, term long projects that help students transition smoothly between Hebrew levels are the hallmark of our language sequence at Carleton. In Hebrew 102 groups of students select two Israeli pop songs and learn to sing them in sync with the artists. After researching the musicians’ backgrounds and interpreting their lyrics, the students present this information and perform their songs in our end of term “Karaoke in Hebrew” event. Hebrew 103 focuses on publishing in-class magazines on topics related to Israel, the Middle East, and wider Jewish history.

Working with Israeli literature, historical memoirs, and contemporary media, Hebrew 204 students engage with complexities in Israeli culture and society. They research and compose a ten page thesis paper in Hebrew and reflect their findings in a poster and accompanying public talk. Independent studies and small reading classes are available for students beyond Hebrew 204, often with a specific focus such as learning Hebrew for Holocaust research. Advanced students are also able to take Israeli literature courses in translation with an added reading and discussion component in Hebrew.

After completing our basic sequence in Hebrew, students moving on to study in Israel have placed into the third and fourth levels of Ulpan, Israel’s traditional six level system of intensive language instruction. After four terms at Carleton our Hebrew students are conversant in a range of everyday situations, with growing skills in understanding TV news, films, newspapers, and Hebrew literature.

Beyond the Classroom

To study a language at Carleton is to enter a dynamic community both during and after class. Our ways of extending a fun Hebrew speaking environment beyond the classroom include inviting guest speakers to give evening lectures on Israeli or broader Jewish or Middle Eastern topics, followed by discussion. We also run an Israeli film series and hold a weekly Hebrew lunch table.

In addition, we encourage further language study in Israel either at a university of in a kibbutz work/ study program. Carleton’s retired Hebrew instructor, Elie Alyeshmerni, established the Jonathan Paradise Israel Experience Fund to provide a foundation of support for two to three Carleton students to explore Israel through study and travel. We are working toward a term long Carleton in Israel program, following our first two week Winter Break program in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 2009.


In Hebrew:

  • Elementary Modern Hebrew (three terms)
  • Intermediate Modern Hebrew (one term)
  • Advanced Hebrew Reading and Discussion (group or independent study)
  • Hebrew for Holocaust research (offered occasionally)

In translation:

  • Personal and National Identity in Israeli and Palestinian Literature. (Argument and Inquiry fall freshman seminar)
  • Israeli Literature in the Middle East
  • Israel in A.B. Yehoshua’s Literature
  • Discovering Literary Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (fall course for Israel Winter break program below)
  • Jewish Collective Memory

“Faith and Fiction: Exploring Israeli Identity” winter break in Israel program:

Co-taught by faculty in Religion and in Hebrew, this program in English focuses in Judaism in contemporary Israel and Hebrew fiction that focuses on Zionist history and both historic and contemporary diversity in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In fall term when this program runs, students take either "The State of Judaism in the State of Israel," or "Discovering Literary Tel Aviv and Jerusalem." A follow up term of supervised research on aspects of Israeli national identity culminates in a public symposium of students' work.