Israeli Sign Language


A language of Israel

Alternate Names

10,000 (Meir et al 2010).



Language Status

5 (Developing).


Some regional lexical variation (Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Be’er-Sheva, Jerusalem) (Lanesman and Meir 2012). Early influence from German Sign Language [gsg] but incorporating signs from many other sources due to immigration of Jewish Deaf. Existence of a sign language in Palestine in the late 19th century is documented, but the extent of its influence on ISL is unknown (Meir and Sandler 2008).


One-handed fingerspelling system for Hebrew script with some similarities to that used with French Sign Language [fsl], but with several handshapes based on Hebrew letter shapes.

Language Use

Vigorous. Interpreters provided in courts, and free for up to 45 hours per year. Some interpretation for college students. ISL instruction for deaf immigrants, parents of deaf children, other hearing people. Organization for sign language teachers. Used by all. Also use Hebrew [heb] (Meir and Sandler 2008). Used as L2 by Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language [syy], Russian Sign Language [rsl].

Language Development

TV. Videos. Dictionary. Agency: The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

First deaf school established in Jerusalem in 1932. Deaf community began to coalesce in the late 1930s in Tel Aviv. Deaf association established 1944 (Meir and Sandler 2008). 120 working sign language interpreters (2019 EUD). Jewish.

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