Officials hope graduates will become Hebrew teachers. Hamas has already begun offering Hebrew studies as an elective to ninth graders in 16 schools, and plans to expand the program to dozens of other schools in the coming months.
Israel occupied Gaza for 38 years after capturing it, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. Since withdrawing its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, Israel has fought two wars against Hamas and restricts access to the territory by air, land and sea.
The coastal strip still relies on Israeli-run crossings for most consumer goods, and Gaza patients must receive special permits to reach medical care in Israel or the West Bank.
Students need to "understand what's going on, like wars, medical treatment in Israel, in the West Bank," said the Education Ministry's Nakhala.
There is no shortage of Hebrew speakers in Gaza, at least among older residents. For years, Gaza Palestinians entered Israel to work in restaurants, construction and other menial jobs. Thousands of others learned the language while held in Israeli prisons. In quieter times, many Israelis would come to Gaza to fix their cars, bargain hunt or eat at local restaurants.
But after the outbreak of the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, Israelis stopped coming. After a second uprising erupted in 2000, Israel sharply restricted the entry of Gazans.
This tortured relationship with Israel was on display during Hebrew class this week at the Islamic University.
Two women, their faces veiled in line with conservative Muslim beliefs, practiced Hebrew in a doctor-patient dialogue. When the conversation turned to the chilly weather, another student described being cold while held in an Israeli prison because he wasn't given a blanket.
"Saval maspik," he said in broken Hebrew. "Suffered enough."