For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Israeli Sign Language.

Israeli Sign Language

Israeli Sign Language
Shassi, ISL
שפת הסימנים הישראלית
s'fàt ha-simaním ha-yisre'elít
שס"י shássi [abbr.]
Native toIsrael
Native speakers
10,000 (2003)[1]
German Sign Language family
  • Israeli Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3isr

Israeli Sign Language, also known as Shassi[2] or ISL, is the most commonly used sign language by the Deaf community of Israel. Some other sign languages are also used in Israel, among them Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language.


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The history of ISL goes back to 1873 in Germany, where Marcus Reich, a German Jew, opened a special school for Jewish deaf children. At the time, it was considered one of the best of its kind, which made it popular with Jewish deaf children from all over the world as well as non-Jews. In 1932, several teachers from this school opened the first school for Jewish deaf children in Jerusalem. The sign language used in the Jerusalemite school was influenced by the German Sign Language (DGS), but other sign languages or signing systems brought by immigrants also contributed to the emerging language, which started out as a pidgin. A local creole gradually emerged, which became ISL.[1]

Shassi still shares many features and vocabulary items with DGS, although it is too far apart today to be considered a dialect of the latter.

During the 1940s, Shassi became the language of a well-established community of Jewish deaf people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today ISL is the most used and taught sign language in Israel, and serves as the main mode of communication for most deaf people in Israel, including Jewish, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins. Some Arab, Druze, and Bedouin towns and villages have sign languages of their own.[citation needed]

In addition to ISL, there is also signed Hebrew used as a tool to teaching deaf children the Hebrew language, and for communication between deaf and hearing people.

On November 29, 2020, the Israeli government decided to establish a unit at the Hebrew Language Academy that will work to preserve and develop the Israeli sign language.[3]

Deaf community

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The beginnings of an established Deaf community in Israel started with the 1936 Tel Aviv Purim parade, when groups from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa met for the first time. This led to the creation of the Association of the Deaf in Israel.[4] The first official board was elected in 1944, with Moshe Bamberger as its first president. The association organized lectures, trips, and holiday celebrations. The community grew as refugees from World War Two fled to Israel, and the association helped new arrivals integrate into the Israeli community by helping them learn Israeli Sign Language and helping them find work. The association completed their Tel Aviv headquarters, Helen Keller House, in 1958.[4]


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The first school for the deaf was established in 1932, a strict boarding school in Jerusalem that taught oralism. Two other oralist schools were established in Tel Aviv in 1941 and Haifa in 1949. The emphasis on oralism began to change in the 1970s, when Izchak Schlesinger began to research ISL, and with Israel hosting the Fourth International Conference on Deafness in 1973. 

Manual alphabet

The manual alphabet is quite similar to that of American Sign Language. The correspondences are as follows:

  • א ʽ as ASL 'A', but with thumb extended
  • ב b as ASL 'B'
  • ג g as ASL 'G'
  • ד d as ASL 'D', but with fingers 3, 4, 5 flat and tips touching tip of thumb
  • ה h as ASL 'H'
  • ו v as ASL '1'
  • ז z as ASL 'Z'
  • ח ch as ASL '8', but with only index and pinkie extended
  • ט t as ASL 'F'
  • י j as ASL 'I'
  • כ k as ASL 'C'
  • ל l as ASL 'L'
  • מ m as ASL 'M'
  • נ n as ASL 'N'
  • ס s as ASL 'S'
  • ע ʽ as bent ASL 'V' (like 'X', but with two bent fingers)
  • פ p as ASL 'P'
  • צ ts as ASL '3'
  • ק q as ASL 'K'
  • ר r as ASL 'R'
  • ש sh as ASL 'W'
  • ת t as ASL 'T'

Unexpected correspondences are ASL 'F' for Hebrew ט tet (analogous to Greek theta becoming Cyrillic fita), '1' rather than 'U' or 'V' for ו vav, old-fashioned 'C' and 'K' rather than 'K' and 'Q' for כ kaf and ק qof (both are pronounced like an English 'k' or hard 'c'), '3' for צ tsade (its cursive form quite resembles the Arabic numeral 3), and 'W' for ש shin (reflecting its shape).

If needed, one may indicate the final forms of letters, ך ם ן ף ץ, by moving the hand downward. To specify שׂ sin, the hand is turned to face the signer (showing the back of the hand).

See also


  1. ^ a b Meir, Irit; Sandler, Wendy; Padden, Carol; Aronoff, Mark (2010). "Chapter 18: Emerging sign languages" (PDF). In Marschark, Marc; Spencer, Patricia Elizabeth (eds.). Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education. Vol. 2. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-539003-2. OCLC 779907637. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  2. ^ גויכמן, רפאלה. "גילי בית הלחמי כובשת את הרשת בשפת הסימנים". TheMarker (in Hebrew). Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  3. ^ הבטחת שימור ופיתוח שפת הסימנים הישראלית
  4. ^ a b Bush, Lawrence (June 26, 2016). "June 27: Helen Keller and the Jews". Jewish Currents.

Further reading

  • Meir, Irit & Sandler, Wendy. (2007) A Language in Space: The Story of Israel Sign Language. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Israeli Sign Language
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?