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The Lebanese in Israel – Language, Religion and Identity

Ori Shachmon, Merav Mack

Pages 343 - 366


This essay describes recent language transitions in the community of former
soldiers of the “South Lebanon Army” (henceforth: SLA), now living in Israel.
While native speakers of Arabic, the SLA's children attend Hebrew-speaking
schools and are not taught to read and write in Arabic. As an additional factor,
while the majority of the SLAs are Maronite Christians, their children gain only
limited knowledge of their religion. Looking at the nexus between language,
religion and communal identity, this essay follows the measures taken by the SLA
community to educate their children and preserve their religious and cultural
identities. We describe two seemingly contradictory strategies, namely, writing
liturgical Arabic texts in Hebrew letters, and systematic instruction of
Standard Arabic. We show that for the adherents of both strategies, the Arabic
language remains a key to strengthen the sense of affiliation and to maintain,
or indeed re-define, communal identity.

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