Katznelson, Shulamit (1919–1999)

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Katznelson, Shulamit (1919–1999)

Israeli professor who brought Jews and Arabs together through language studies . Born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919; died on August 6, 1999, of a heart attack at her home in Netanya, Israel; daughter of Bat-Sheva Katznelson (legislator in Israel's Parliament); niece ofRachel Katznelson-Shazar (1888–1975); attended high school and teacher's college in Jerusalem and master's program at University of Michigan.

At age two, immigrated to Palestine with her family (1921); founded Ulpan Akiva, an independent, residential language school in Netanya, Israel (1951); received Israel Prize for Life Achievement for bringing Arabs and Jews together through study of each other's language (1986); nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for helping to reconcile Jews and Arabs (1993); retired as head of Ulpan Akiva (1997).

Born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919, Shulamit Katznelson immigrated with her family to Palestine in 1921. Her mother Bat-Sheva Katznelson served in Israel's Parliament; her brother, Shmuel Tamir, was a justice minister; and her uncle, Zalman Shazar, was Israel's third president. She attended high school and teacher's college in Jerusalem, and then pursued her master's degree at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

In 1951, Katznelson founded Ulpan Akiva, an independent, residential language school in Netanya, Israel. For almost 50 years, she focused her energies at the school on reconciling Jews and Arabs through person-to-person contacts and learning to speak each other's language. Katznelson also believed that one's language and culture were inseparable. As a result, students were asked to intersperse language lessons while learning about each other's history and culture. Many of the Jews and Arabs who attended the school became friends and continued their friendships. Approximately 100,000 people from 148 countries have studied at the school. Two branch offices were set up in the Gaza Strip towns of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. Following Katznelson's retirement in 1997, Ephraim Lapid, a former Israeli military officer, took over as her successor. For her efforts to achieve reconciliation between the Arabs and the Jews, Katznelson received her country's highest honor in 1986, the Israel Prize for Life Achievement; in 1993, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Shulamit Katznelson died of a heart attack on August 6, 1999, at age 80, at her home in Netanya, near Tel Aviv, Israel.


Obituary, in The New York Times. August 7, 1999.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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Katznelson, Shulamit (1919–1999)

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