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Politiques, Education et Identités Linguistiques, le collège des Frères des écoles chrétiennes de Jérusalem (1922-1939)

This dissertation sheds light on politics, education and linguistic identity by studying the case of the College of Jerusalem, founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Karène Sanchez
06 May 2009
Full text in Leiden University Repository

For French public opinion and government, in the early 1920s, Palestine remains "the most French land of the Orient”, at a time when the loss of the Catholic French protectorate in the Holy Land to Great Britain is being confirmed. Even during the British Mandate, the French General Consulate continues to support the work of education and assistance of the French communities. The College of Jerusalem founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1876 occupies an exceptional position as a school for primary, secondary and vocational education, as it is situated in the heart of the Christian Quarter of the Old City and because it gradually and quickly opens its doors for all communities present in the city.

The College is highly representative of the status of French as a second language of the educated elite and middle classes. As one of the oldest educational institutions in the city, its reputation goes far beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the city, a gathering place for many European nations as well as a symbol of multilingualism, is the stage for a confrontation between European powers. These European powers acutely compete with respect to language education. In the late nineteenth century, knowledge of languages is a way of accessing modernity. Languages are also a key element for the local and the Roman religious authorities. Each European institution claims a form of pre-eminence in addressing its linguistic and religious community. 

On the one hand, the case of the  College of Jerusalem underscores the cultural and linguistic policies of the two rival mandatory powers of the region (through exclusion, inversion, and distribution of new functions). On the other hand, it sheds light on some aspects of the use of French in this society, which is very different from that in Syria and Lebanon under the French mandate. In Palestine during the British Mandate, the act of language is an instrument for political and religious institutions, and a reflection of the dialectic relationship between dominant and dominated parties. Language reflects the interdependence around the College, the complexity of the relationships between language and religion, and language and identity. The College shows a remarkable resilience and adaptability throughout its existence, even as its development slows down. 

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