Israel Establishes Sign Language Academy

Decision made to boost equality and help those with disabilities fully integrate with society

By Yossi Aloni |
Deaf actors using sign language communicate backstage prior to their performance "Luna Park" at the "Nalaga’at Theater" in the Tel Aviv-Jaffo port. The Nalaga'at theatre's acting ensemble consists of deaf-blind actors, most of whom have Usher's Syndrome, a genetic condition causing both deafness and blindness. The actors are each paired with an "interpretator" who sign them instructions into the palms of their hands, as well as translating vocally to the audience. The theatre one of its kind in the world, opening in 2007, was founded by Adina Tal. March 18, 2012. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** ???? ?? ???? ????? ???? ??????? ?????? ?????? ? ??????? Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

The establishment of the Academy of Sign Language was brought up for governmental approval at the initiative of the Minister of Culture and Sports, Hili Tropper, as part of a number of initiatives that are currently being supported by the minister related to promoting equality for those with disabilities.

Like any language, sign language is a living and developing language. It has rules and can involve new interpretations, there is a large community that uses it, and there is a need for it in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish, and Ladino languages. Israeli sign language shares a long history with the State of Israel. Sign language speakers developed Israeli sign languages alongside the building of the state and the ingathering of Jews from the Diaspora. Israeli sign languages connect the deaf community in Israel, regardless of their nationality or sector.

The academy will engage in research, documentation, and the development of Israeli sign languages in the areas of marking, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and expression, as well as editing, special dictionaries, and promoting the use of sign language in Israel.

Similar academies have been established around the world and Israel’s decision to follow suit was made in response to many requests from the local hearing-impaired community. Sign language is a unique language and varies according to the language spoken in the relevant country.

The families of those who are deaf or hard of hearing must also master sign language. Learning signing forms the basis upon which a deaf person can integrate into Israeli society with dignity.

Minister of Culture and Sport, Hili Tropper:

“The State of Israel has the responsibility to make broad and significant moves that will enable equality, integration, and accessibility for people with disabilities. I seek to promote these values in all areas of the ministry and to give them a practical application in the world of culture and sports in Israel. The establishment of the Academy of Sign Language is an important step that will enable the promotion and equality of the hearing-impaired community in Israel.”

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