CEDENO, Calif.

— There are more than 5,000 Arab and Israeli students in the Israeli-Palestine school system, including about 5,500 who attend the private CEDENA School in Cedeno, Calif., which specializes in learning Arab culture.

Its founder, Dr. Saeb Erekat, said that in recent years the number of Arab students in Israeli-Jewish-Arab schools has decreased by 50%.

The Jewish-Arab student population has remained relatively stable, however, he said.

The new school opened its doors in 2009.

Erekat said the students are drawn to the Arabic language and culture and are interested in pursuing their dreams.

They come to CEDNA to experience the joys and hardships of a Palestinian life, he explained.

According to Erekot, Arab students receive about 50% of their tuition from the state.

CEDENA is part of a larger network of Jewish-Israeli-Arab programs in the United States and around the world.

Arab schools in the U.S. have been in the spotlight over the past few years after the death of Atef Abu Alaoui, an American-Israeli Palestinian who died after he was allegedly denied access to an Israeli hospital. 

 The Israeli-Palestinian school in CEDENNO is located in an affluent neighborhood, but students from all over the country can attend the school.

One of the main goals of the CEDEPATH program is to help Arab students learn Hebrew and become fluent in it, Erekatt said. 

The program has also helped Palestinian students achieve their dreams, he added.

“The Arab students are learning Hebrew, Arabic and other languages.

They’re doing better in school, they’re doing well in their studies,” he said, noting that Arab students do not have to wait until high school to enroll. 

He added that the Israeli and Palestinian students have different needs and different personalities.

He said that some students come from families with Arab-Israeli spouses and some come from Arab-American parents. 

Eresky said the program is aimed at encouraging the students to get involved in the Arab community and to create their own future.

 “The Israeli and Arab students have to learn to be proud of their Palestinian heritage, and they have to accept their Palestinian identity and culture,” he added, stressing that the program aims to help students to understand the complex issue of Israeli-Muslim relations in the Middle East.

It’s a way for the students and the parents to learn the history and culture of the Palestinian people, he concluded.

Israeli-Palestinian relations were strained by the 2014 abduction of a 12-year-old Israeli boy, Gilad Shalit, by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank, where the boy was born.