A Quiet Education Revolution

April 10, 2012 1:33 pm 3 comments

Share this Article

The newly approved school system will aim to bridge the gap between orthodox and secular students. Photo: EPA/David First/Pool.

A quiet revolution is taking place in the Israeli education system.  When the next school year begins in September, a third stream of state-approved schools will join the existing secular (mamlachti) and religious (mamlachti dati) school systems that have defined Israeli education since the founding of the state.

According to Rabbi Michael Melchior, founder of Meitarim, the Network for Jewish Democratic Education, Knesset approval in February to implement a comprehensive State Pluralistic Education System will encourage students from both observant and secular backgrounds to study together, with a curriculum based on Jewish values of tolerance, Jewish peoplehood and humanism.

The newly approved stream, which will be known as mamlachti meshalev (integrated and pluralistic) is the culmination of years of effort on the part of Meitarim and a task force led by Rabbi Melchior, that includes Meitarim, as well as leaders from the Tali and Keshet independent schools.

Melchior first raised the idea in the Knesset more than 12 years ago, and Meitarim began with its first school in 1999 in Modi’in and now has over 50 schools with 5000 students throughout the country.

With the Knesset approval, the Israeli government has now committed to assisting in the transition of 30 schools from the state secular and religious education systems to the new pluralistic model by this coming September.  By the 2013 school year, Melchior expects to bring an additional 60 pluralistic schools into the system.

“We could easily become the leading educational stream in the not too distant future,” he asserts. According to the new law, any public school can become a pluralistic, integrated school and join the new stream if at least 70 percent of the parents and 50 percent of the teachers are in favor.

Rabbi Melchior, who served in the Knesset between 1999-2009, as former Deputy Education Minister (2005) and Chair of the Knesset Education Committee (2005-2009), told JNS that the current state of Israeli education is “deeply tragic” and has served to reinforce the divisions in Israeli society. “Many secular Israelis have grown up without an understanding that they’re part of Judaism, that Judaism is theirs—they think it belongs only to the religious,” asserts Melchior.

“So, you can be a post graduate from Hebrew University who knows less of Jewish concepts than someone in kindergarten in a Reform school in Cincinnati.”

At the same time, Melchior continues, “what has happened in the religious sector is a Judaism that has become more and more narrow—that is something confined to the ritual realm, a limited interpretation of the Torah. Many areas of humanism, social responsibility, social justice, relating to non-Jews, secular Jews or the environment, what Zionism is about, all these are missing, because these ideas have been confined to only part of the population. We started a new stream of thinking—in the seam between the two worlds.”  Melchior decries the fact that Israeli students are segregated into schools by religious observance.

Back in the 1970s, Melchior’s father, Rabbi Marcus Melchior, was invited to make aliyah from Denmark to introduce Jewish studies as a main subject into the secular school system.  “It was vetoed by the religious parties who didn’t want it—they wanted to have the monopoly at that time. It never succeeded, it never came from inside or came naturally,” Melchior claims.

Now, Melchior believes that many young Israelis are seeking a more meaningful engagement with Judaism, albeit not necessarily in traditional ways, and the new pluralistic school system will provide an avenue for their involvement.

The new pluralistic stream has garnered support from other concerned Jewish leaders.  Writing in support of the legislation in the Jerusalem Post, columnist and former World Jewish Congress leader Isi Leibler commented, “The current system actually institutionalizes divisions among school-age youngsters by segregating them in self-imposed ghettos, which invariably breed intolerance. It also creates a fertile environment in which post-Zionists, Arabs and others are enabled to promote ‘a state for all its citizens,’ the code message for a state devoid of Jewish values.”

On a practical level, Meitarim will continue supporting existing schools within the Meitarim Network, help open new schools that can later apply to officially become state pluralistic schools, and support the government by providing teacher training and curriculum development.

Meitarim’s main backers in the U.S. include the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Crown Family Fund, the Harold and Edith Everett Foundation and the Schusterman Foundation.

3 Comments

  • “The current system actually institutionalizes divisions among school-age youngsters by segregating them in self-imposed ghettos, which invariably breed intolerance.”

    So we’re trading two extreme indoctrinations for just the one? I guess…

    • Under the present dual system “ne’er the twain shall meet”
      You cannot have an enduring nation with two parallel societies that will not meet-and have little understanding or respect for each other.
      Unfortunately the state has allowed for since its inception institutions that foster divisions and devisiveness.

  • The GOI’s idea of democracy takes a hard left twist. The corrupt government has damaged Jewish public education enough and should back off. Did BB get this brilliant idea from the arab method of teaching history? Will the students have to join the BB Youth and how are they indoctrinated? Will they learn to goose-step?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.