Hebrew is the language of Israel, which is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity and a central location for Islam and the Bahá’í faith. Many students study Hebrew in order to understand and demonstrate proficiency in the complex issues of the Middle East, to travel and work in the region, to gain access to Israeli news media, acquire skills relevant to majors and minors such as Government, Political Economy, Justice and Peace Studies, History, Theology and Religious Studies, Classics, Linguistics, Jewish Civilization and any of the internationally-focused SFS majors. Students also learn Hebrew to communicate with Israeli friends and family, understand prayers and the Hebrew Bible, and learn about the rich culture and history, modern and ancient, of Israel and the Middle East. Israel is one of the world’s fastest-growing high-tech economies and a country of fundamental importance in the Middle East and on the world stage. For students interested in the Middle East region in the fields of politics, diplomacy, conflict resolution, security studies, history or business, a knowledge of Hebrew is invaluable.

Hebrew is a northwest, Semitic language belonging to the Canaanite family of languages within the Afro-Asiatic language group. It is written in a non-Latin script, however the alphabet has only twenty-two letters and each vowel possesses a one-to-one correlation with a sound. The grammar is largely structured around three-letter roots which allow for a fast-expanding vocabulary range, because one may understand the meaning or context of many words deriving from the same root. For example, the root SFR is used for sefer (“book”), sifriah (“library”), safran (“librarian”), sipur (“story”), sofer (“author”), sifrut (“literature”), sifruti (“literary”), mesaper (“storyteller”), beit sefer (“school”) and many other related words.

Hebrew is the language of the Bible, which is the religious and cultural cornerstone of Western Civilization. Modern Hebrew is the simplest conduit into Biblical Hebrew, which contributes to approximately 85% of the 1,000 most commonly used words in Modern Hebrew. The influence of Hebrew on American life is vast. Until a century ago, Hebrew was a required classical language alongside Greek and Latin for university students at many American institutions (whose logos bore Hebrew inscriptions: Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth – the last three of which still bear Hebrew seals). Many Hebrew words from the Bible are used in English, among them: alphabet, sabbath, amen, abbot, messiah, hallelujah, hosanna, manna, cherubim, seraphim, satan, shibboleth, leviathan, horn, camel, jubilee, scallions, gauze, Armageddon and behemoth. Many Hebrew idioms from the Bible are also used in English today such as “with a heavy heart”, “the skin of his teeth,” “a drop in the bucket,” and many more.

Ancient Hebrew flourished as a spoken language in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the period approximately 1200 to 586 BCE. Modern Hebrew is a descendent of ancient Hebrew, which was dormant as a spoken language for approximately two millennia, and is the only ancient, dormant language to be successfully revived. The revival of Hebrew occurred in the nineteenth-century, largely by the linguist Eliezer ben-Yehuda, through an adaptation of Biblical Hebrew to modern times. Modern Hebrew is often studied as a complement to the study of related Semitic languages, such as Arabic (which has a parallel grammar system), and in conjunction with Persian in preparation for work in and on the Middle East. Hebrew is related to the living languages of Arabic, Maltese, Amharic, Tigre, Tigrinya, Neo-Aramaic, Judeo-Aramaic and Syriac, and to the ancient languages of Phoenician, Moabite, Punic, Classical Aramaic, Amorite, Ugaritic, Nabatean, Sabaean and Akkadian.

Georgetown has a robust Hebrew Program that offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to acquire and demonstrate proficiency in a language that will be of central importance to their careers. Students who pursue the minor in Hebrew from Georgetown will have a strong background in the language and culture of a major power in the Middle East and a more comprehensive understanding of the complex issues in the region.

Minor in Hebrew

Requirements for the Minor

The minor in Hebrew requires a minimum of six courses (18 credits). All students minoring in Hebrew, and entering the program without previous knowledge, are required to take:

HEBR 1001 Intensive Beginning Hebrew I (6 credits)

HEBR 1002 Intensive Beginning Hebrew II (6 credits)

HEBR 2001 Intermediate Hebrew I (3 credits)

HEBR 2002 Intermediate Hebrew II (3 credits)

HEBR 3001 Advanced Hebrew I (3 credits)

HEBR 3002 Advanced Hebrew II (3 credits)

Students who begin their study of Hebrew beyond the Beginning Hebrew I level, are required to take the Hebrew Placement Exam and complete all remaining Hebrew courses, up to and including Advanced Hebrew II. At minimum, two Hebrew language courses (6 credits) must be completed for the minor: Advanced Hebrew I and Advanced Hebrew II. Students may then substitute additional courses with Hebrew and Israel-related content, offered at the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) and Georgetown, to meet the 18-credit requirement for the Hebrew minor, with approval from the Head of the Hebrew Program.

Supplemental courses in Israel Studies at the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) will vary by semester in topics such as:

  • Israeli History 
  • Israeli Culture 
  • Israeli Domestic Policy 
  • Israeli Security Studies
  • Israeli Foreign Policy 
  • Israeli Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution

A sample of courses offered in Spring 2023, include:

  • JCIV-1759 Untangling the Middle East: Religion, Politics, and Ethnicity 
  • JCIV-1770 Re-Examining the Israel-Palestine Crisis Through Literature and Film 
  • JCIV-2762 Israel and World Politics 
  • JCIV-2772 The History of the Jewish People: From Antiquity to Today
  • JCIV-4750 Statecraft & Negotiation 

A sample of courses offered in Fall 2023, include:

  • JCIV-2758 Congress & Making Middle Eastern Policy 
  • JCIV-2970 The Societal, Political and Security Implications of Israel’s Relations with the Arab and Muslim World
  • JCIV-3751 History of Peace-Making: Middle East 
  • JCIV-4447 Jewish-Muslim Coexistence in the Middle East and North Africa

Additional courses at the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) and Georgetown, with content related to Hebrew language or Israel, transfer courses or study abroad courses from high schools and universities in and outside the U.S, and the Hebrew SAT II or AP Hebrew Exam, may count toward the Hebrew minor with approval from the coordinator of the Hebrew program. 

For more information about the minor, visit the program website or contact the coordinator of the Hebrew Program, Dr. Meital Orr, at hebrew@georgetown.edu.