For the first time in nearly 20 years, government-run schools in Gaza are teaching Hebrew, and demand is outstripping the supply of qualified teachers. The driving force behind this pilot program? Hamas.

“[Israel is] more developed than us, so we can get benefits out of it – in terms of science, in terms of culture,” says Mohamed Suleiman Abu Shqair, the deputy minister of education in the Hamas government. “This is also to prove to the rest of the world … that we are open-minded, even to teach our enemy’s language in our schools.”

Many middle-aged Gazans know Hebrew well, since they spent years working in Israel before the border was tightened in 2003. They say it’s only natural that their children should know Hebrew as well and even hold out hope that they could use it to do business with Israel in the future, hinting at a possible thawing of relations between Israel and Gaza. They also laud the insight of Israeli news analysts, and say that watching Israeli TV news – readily available in Gaza, along with cultural and educational programs – can help them better understand not only their neighbor, but also their own society and political climate.