Bar-Ilan University Appoints Its First Arab Department Chair

Prof. Elinor Saiegh-Haddad to head Department of English Literature and Linguistics at Israel's only religious institute of higher education.

Elinor Saiegh-Haddad, a professor of English linguistics and literature, is to become the first Israeli Arab to head a department at Bar-Ilan University. Her appointment to chair of the English department at Israel’s only religious institute of higher education, approved by the university’s senate this week, will take effect on October 1.

The 47-year-old mother of three is an expert on reading development in Arabic and has played an active role in curriculum development and textbook writing in Arabic as a first language and English as a foreign language for the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Saigh-Haddad, who received her doctorate at Bar-Ilan, serves on the editorial boards of two important journals in her field: “Scientific Studies of Reading” and “Reading & Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal.”

A resident of the northern Israeli town of Tarshiha, Saigh-Haddad completed her master’s degree at Reading University in England and conducted her postdoctoral work at the University of Toronto, where she investigated reading development in bilingual children who spoke English and Arabic. She recently co-edited a volume titled “Handbook of Arabic Literacy (Springer 2014), which addresses various aspects of literacy development in Arabic.

Last year, Bar-Ilan appointed its first female provost, Miriam Faust. That followed the appointment of Malka Schaps, an ultra-Orthodox professor of mathematics, as dean of its faculty of exact sciences. These and other appointments of recent years are part of a concerted effort by the university to move women into high-level administrative positions.

Israeli Arabs comprise less than 3 percent of Bar-Ilan’s total student body.