“We are not a reading people, and there are light years between civilization and us,” my high school principal in Kafr Raina in the Lower Galilee would say over the loudspeaker once a week before we entered our morning classes. This statement seeped into the consciousness of the sleepy students and shaped their view of reality. Although the school library was big, it was pretty quiet.
The teachers also perpetuated the saying “the Arab people are not a reading people.” They stood helpless in front of us with Arab literature curricula that hadn’t been refreshed for years. They were stuck with boring, modernist Egyptian literature.
“If I had sufficed with what I learned in school, I would have been illiterate,” says Hisham Nafaa, a writer and journalist from Beit Jann who lives in Haifa. “I don’t think the Education Ministry understands that part of its job is to provide culture to Arab society.”