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ULPAN (Heb. אֻלְפָּן), center for intensive study by adults, especially of Hebrew by newcomers to Israel. The term comes from an Aramaic word meaning custom, training, instruction, law. It is also used to mean a broadcasting studio or artist's atelier. The term was coined in 1949 when the first center for intensive adult Hebrew study by immigrants was opened at the Eẓion immigrants' camp in Jerusalem and was called an ulpan in distinction to bet sefer, the usual term for a school. The term has since spread to the Diaspora, where it is applied to all kinds of educational activity.

Mass immigration in the early years of the state brought a babel of tongues, and it became imperative to provide centers where the new arrivals could acquire Hebrew and a knowledge of Jewish culture. The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Absorption Department of the *Jewish Agency set up the Eẓion ulpan as a pilot project. Others were soon set up, primarily for professional men who could not find suitable work because of their ignorance of the Hebrew language and Israeli culture. The ulpan network became one of Israel's most significant features, essential in aiding immigrant settlement.

The major ulpanim are residential and intensive, offering four to five months' study with 30 hours of classwork per week. At a kibbutz ulpan younger people work half a day and pay no fees. Other ulpanim are nonresidential, and there are also morning and evening courses; the term ulpanit is also used for the less intensive courses. In 1969 there were 89 ulpanim in Israel (including those run by local authorities but supervised by the Ministry of Education). Between 1949 and the end of 1969, over 120,000 adults studied in them, some 11,000 in 1969 alone. The major residential ulpanim are in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanyah, Beersheba, and Nazareth. In the 1990s, with the renewal of mass immigration, the ulpanim hosted Russian and Ethiopian newcomers. At the turn of the century there were 220 ulpanim nationwide teaching 27,000 students at 350 sites in cities, kibbutzim, factories, hospitals, army bases, universities, community centers, and government offices.

Ulpan teaching is intensive, eclectic, and functional. The curriculum combines study of the past (Bible, aggadah, Jewish history and traditions, folklore, and literature) with the needs of everyday communication. It includes civics, information on professional life, and the different aspects of modern Israel in its various aspects – geography, economy, security, and so forth.


Orḥot: Dappei Hadrakhah le-Morim li-Mevugarim, vol. 3: Hora'at Ivrit li-MevugarimTakẓirim u-Bibliografyah (1963); unesco, Teaching of Modern Languages (1955), index; M. Kamrat, Hanḥalat ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit (1962); D. Marani, Ha-Metodikah shel Hora'at ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit li-Mevugarim (1956); Enẓiklopedyah Ḥinnukhit, 3 (1967), 586ff.; Israel, Misrad ha-Ḥinnukh ve-ha-Tarbut, Ha-Maḥalakah le-Hanḥalat ha-Lashon, Ba-Ulpanim (1955–57), 8 nos.; idem, Yalkut (1956); idem, Haẓa'at Tokhnit Limmudim (1959); idem, Derakhim u-Fe'ullot (1960).

[Mordechai Kamrat]

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