High school bans Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group due to parents' pressure
Students report that the principal has said the school aims to raise the rate of students who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and that inviting the Israeli-Palestinian organization could damage this.
Alon High School in Ramat Hasharon is refusing to allow an organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue to operate there. According to students and teachers, opposition to the group, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, has come from the school's parents' committee.
A petition circulated by students alleges that the parents' committee vetoed a visit by the group's representatives due to concerns that students might be influenced by the organization. Parents' committee chairman Hani Fogel said, however, that the committee has not yet come to a position on the matter.
The organization has visited hundreds of high schools around the country in recent years. According to the Education Ministry, school principals can decide whether to invite outside speakers.
Students report that the principal at Alon, Yehuda Yaakovson, has said the school aims to raise the rate of students who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and that inviting the Israeli-Palestinian organization could damage this. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar also seeks to increase the rate of army enlistment as a goal of the education system.
The Ramat Hasharon municipality, however, denied the comment attributed to the principal.
According to one 12th grader at the school, "the parents, and it seems the school, too, are apparently trying to protect us, but this really is censorship. We are big enough children to form our opinions by ourselves."
Itai Snir, a teacher at Alon and a member of Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, said he organized a meeting for students after regular school hours to talk about the organization after he was denied permission to do so at the school's Memorial Day ceremony. Snir's father was murdered in Jordan in 2001.
Parents' committee chairman Fogel said the committee, along with the school's administration, "encourages open discussion about values, while keeping a distance from the politicization of the school. The committee did not veto the [organization's] activities. To come to a decision on the subject, the committee met with representatives of the [organization], but a decision has not yet been made.
"A dialogue is underway with the school administration, the student council and the parents' committee on developing activities around values such as humanism and tolerance. Then the content and the groups that will speak to the the students will be examined."
According to the Ramat Hasharon municipality, "[Alon High School] conducts a broad multicultural social-values program that includes a range of activities [involving] meetings with students and their families with Israeli Arabs. The high school works in productive cooperation with the parents' committee and has achieved much regarding values.
"This will be reflected in its high ranking, seventh in the country, in the numbers for completing an officers course, a pilots course, and in the numbers for serving in quality positions in the IDF .... We regret the incorrect statements attributed to the school's principal."
Nir Yesod, responsible for school programming at the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, said the group has repeatedly tried to provide programming for the school, but the parents' committee has worked behind the scenes to block it.
"An attempt to prevent the students from hearing a Palestinian telling, for example, how his brother was killed at a checkpoint is ridiculous," Yesod said.