The Politics of Israeli Education
Leave it to the Palestinian Authority and the leaders of Israel’s haredi community never to miss an opportunity to hinder the populations they supposedly represent. On Sunday, after the announcement that extra funding was going to be funneled into east Jerusalem schools that offer the Israeli curriculum, the PA Education Ministry released an angry statement “flatly rejecting” the attempt by the “occupation” to “poison the minds” of young Arabs.
While the PA continually poisons the minds of young Arabs with jihad against Jews, Christians and other infidels, Israel has been trying to meet a growing and openly expressed need among Palestinian students in its capital city. The idea is for these kids to be provided with the kind of learning material that will enable them to enroll in the country’s top universities and emerge with degrees and knowledge that will contribute to their futures — and hopefully enhance the prospect of Jewish-Arab coexistence.
A recent news feature on one of Israel’s television networks included a visit to a Palestinian high school in east Jerusalem in which the pupils are given a choice of whether to study and be tested on Israel’s core curriculum or that of the PA. A show of hands in the classroom indicated that most had decided to go with the former, so as to be prepared for the Israeli matriculation exams. One teenager said he wanted to attend medical school; another said he wanted to become an engineer; others gave similar answers. Those who had opted to stick with the Palestinian curriculum — and corresponding matriculation exams — basically shrugged when asked about their ambitions in life.
What emerged, not surprisingly, was that parental examples and pressures played key roles in the decision of each student.
As was reported in Haaretz, all of east Jerusalem’s 180 public and private schools receive Israeli Education Ministry funding, but only 10 offered the Israeli curriculum last year — something more and more Palestinian parents are requesting.
It is for this reason that the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry is going to provide a special 20-million-shekel ($5.2 million) bonus to the schools already offering the Israeli curriculum and to incentivize others to follow suit. The money will go toward improving the physical conditions of the schools and building extra facilities, such as computer rooms and gyms.
The Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli Education Ministry have been actively involved in the move, which the PA considers an outrage. The Jewish state, it says, “violates the most basic human rights and the international convention that guarantees the right of occupied peoples to preserve their identity and freedom, to choose their culture and curricula.”
To prevent Israel from helping Palestinian students get ahead, the PA is calling on Arab and Islamic NGOs to raise money for the purpose of “thwarting Israeli attempts to Judaize Palestinian schools.”
Simultaneously, Israeli lawmakers are capitulating to political pressure by ultra-Orthodox politicians to annul legislation, forged but never implemented by the previous government, requiring state-funded haredi schools to teach math, science and English to their pupils.
According to the Jerusalem Post, even many Orthodox activists who do want core curriculum subjects to be taught in haredi elementary schools support the annulment of the law, on the grounds that it is “coercive.” They prefer that the government provide more budgets to those schools already offering core studies, and for the establishment of new haredi schools that will do so.
Though the freedom to choose one’s educational institutions is admirable, the fact that any parent would knowingly and willfully place his child at a disadvantage by withholding basic learning tools is a disgrace. Even more appalling is that tax shekels are contributing to this travesty.
The dire situation as it stands is that the PA fears the “Judaization” of its schools, and the haredim fear the exact opposite. What neither wants to forfeit, however, is state money. This is but one of many harsh lessons in the politics of education, health and welfare that no Israeli is taught at any school.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algmeiner.