Andrea Haselova’s chance arrival at the University of Haifa has led to her being the first doctoral student here in the area of Arabic Language and Literature.

“It was pure luck that my first time in Israel, in 1992, was at Haifa University,” she said. “Czechoslovakia had a cultural reciprocal agreement with Israel. I applied for a year’s study program and was told that I would be attending Haifa University as an overseas student.” At the time she was studying for an M.A. degree at Bratislava University.

It was during her year in Israel that Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia; and at the end of her year in Israel, Haselova returned to Slovakia. “I find it has not made any difference in my life,” she said. “And in my opinion, most people feel as I do.”

Haselova, a Christian, not only came to Haifa by chance, her choice of studying Arabic was also happenstance. “I wanted to study English, but I could only learn it in combination with another language. My combination choices were Russian, German, or Arabic. I did not want Russian or German, so that left Arabic. I thought to myself, Why not?. It would be something different and, I hoped, interesting.”

In 1989, while studying for her B.A., the Berlin Wall came down. For Haselova, it had the effect of allowing more freedom of travel. The eight students in her course now had the opportunity to visit different Arab countries, and she studied for a couple of months in Tunisia.

After obtaining her degree, Haselova continued with academic studies of Arabic at Bratislava University. “I chose to come Israel during my M.A. studies, rather than an Arab state, as I knew it was always preferable to study another Semitic language. So I spent the year as an overseas student at Haifa studying Hebrew, standard Arabic, and dialect.”

Haselova’s year here had given her no doubt as to her luck in being situated in the North. “As an overseas student, I had the chance to tour the whole of Israel and realized that I had been very fortunate. Not only did I enjoy my studies here, but I found that the northern part of Israel was definitely the best area for the study of Arab dialects.”

Haselova became a teaching assistant in her university’s Arabic Department in parallel to studying for her Master’s. In the meantime, she submitted a subject for her doctoral dissertation--Arabic dialectology and socio-linguistics--to the University of Haifa. She was accepted and, after receiving her M.A., Haselova returned to Haifa. Here, she is technically classified as being on the personal, independent doctorate track. Her advisor is Dr. Rafael Talmon, Chair of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature.

“I am studying the dialects of Nazareth and am learning more and more about Arab culture,” Haselova said. “I have a chance to interview both Christians and Moslems living in the same area, and I often get asked to stay with families. I feel totally accepted by Arabs of both religions. [Contacts for] many of the families I have been introduced to have been though Arab students I have met here at the University.”

After Haselova completes her dissertation, she intends to return to Slovakia and to teach at Bratislava University. “All my family live in Slovakia, and I have been trying to get them to come and visit Israel, but so far with no success. I do have many friends here, though, and I am still in contact with people I first met on the Overseas Program who often visit Israel.”

The 25-year-old Haselova, who rents an apartment in Haifa, finds the North quiet and peaceful. “I feel comfortable, and at home here, and of course it is very convenient for traveling to Nazareth. It seems to me there is more tolerance in the North, and there is not the tension that I feel when I visit Jerusalem.”

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