The High Price of Israel’s Segregated Educational System

How did a terrorist organization manage to infiltrate the Israeli school system?

On February 23, Israel’s Education Ministry, Jerusalem District Police and the Shin Bet security agency closed down a Hamas-operated school in eastern Jerusalem for teaching a violent, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli curriculum.

Which begs the question: How did a terrorist organization manage to infiltrate the Israeli school system?

Israel’s balkanized public education was created almost 65 years ago, with the passage of the National Education Law that allowed Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, Religious Zionist and secular Jews to maintain separate school systems. The result has been a farcical testament to the folly of multiculturalism, which only encourages minority groups to adopt hyphenated identities, play grievance games and submit spurious victimhood claims.

With regards to the education of Arabs living in Jerusalem, multiculturalism morphed into straight-out indoctrination in 1995, when the Oslo Agreement mandated that the educational system in east Jerusalem be run by the Palestinian Authority (PA). As a result, only eight of about 180 schools teach the Israeli curriculum and only two of those are public schools.

What’s the danger of having the PA teach Palestinian kids? In 2015, an exhaustive report published by Palestinian Media Watch revealed that Israel’s ostensible peace partner, the Palestinian Authority, is teaching its children to hate Israel and Israelis. The PA’s official educational system uses virulent anti-Semitic concepts and materials that are proving to be one of the greatest obstacles to peace.

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And Israeli citizens are reaping the whirlwind of this strange exercise in segregated education. Most perpetrators of the ‘Knife Intifada,’ a recent yearlong wave of Palestinian terror attacks, came from east Jerusalem.

Instead of teaching all Israeli students about the underpinnings of Israeli society—democracy, civil rights and national solidarity – Israeli education has veered into tribalism, ideological indoctrination and hatred of the “other.” As a result, the alienation between students of these parallel educational systems is growing at an alarming rate.

Moreover, the segregated nature of Jerusalem’s school system touches upon the festering issue of sovereignty. If Jerusalem is indeed the undivided capital of Israel, then there can’t be separate curricula for Jews and Arabs. More broadly, Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem means that “there are no separate laws for Israelis and for non-Israelis,” as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently said.

If the goal of public schools is to develop well-rounded citizens who can think critically, process information, make good decisions, support themselves and serve the needs of society, what can Israel do to reform its divisive educational system?

One idea is to integrate public education in a manner that would both feature a morning core curriculum and include separate afternoon classes. Such a system would enable students from minority population groups to explore their distinct ideological values and religious teachings, while simultaneously obtaining a valuable all-around education.

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Less grandiose but more realistic is the Education Ministry’s plan to offer extra funding to east Jerusalem schools that switch from the Palestinian to the Israeli curriculum.

Schools that either partially or completely adopt the Israeli educational plan will receive additional resources for such things as counseling, music and art classes, teacher’s continuing education and more.

Despite the incendiary rhetoric of autocratic, corrupt Palestinian leaders, most Arabs living in Israel quietly understand that the key to obtaining a higher education and entering the Israeli job market is to learn core subjects such as Hebrew, English, science and math.

But until an equal application of Israeli law is applied to all Jerusalem residents, regardless of national or religious background, the best bet for east Jerusalem schools is to choose real knowledge over incitement and accept the Education Ministry’s offer.

As things stand, young Arab men and women going to schools in east Jerusalem today, instead of being prepared to win at the race of life, are all too often being brainwashed to take up arms and fulfill the Jihadist mandate to destroy Israel.

By: Gidon Ben-Zvi, Freelance Journalist