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Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar will not appoint Prof. Ron Margolin to chair the committee on the "Culture and Legacy of Israel" curriculum.

Margolin, prominent in compiling the Jewish studies program for junior high schools, accuses Sa'ar of politicizing the ministry's work. Margolin says he was not chosen "because I'm identified too closely with the left and because I'm associated with the previous regime at the ministry."

The committee compiling the new curriculum will be chaired by Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, founder of the Beit Morasha Jewish studies center in Jerusalem.

Margolin, a researcher of Hassidism who teaches modern Jewish and Zionist thought, heads the Religious Studies program at Tel Aviv University. He was deputy chair of a committee set up by former education minister Yuli Tamir to prepare a Jewish studies curriculum for junior high schools. It was pluralistic, relied on a variety of sources and has been taught in dozens of schools over the last two years.

In August, Sa'ar declared the subject will be scrapped and replaced with a new curriculum, "built around central issues, like symbols, leaders, and iconic figures of Zionism and Judaism."

New curriculum

The new curriculum is seen by Saar as part of a wider move to strengthen Jewish and Zionist values in education, along with increasing student tours of Jerusalem and actively encouraging service in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Margolin told Haaretz that the director-general of the ministry, Shimshon Shoshani, requested he meet with the various officials involved during the high holidays, as time was short. "A few days before Sukkot there was a general meeting, and it was clear to everyone in the room I was going to be chairman," said Margolin. Two weeks later, was told by a third person that Sa'ar ruled out his appointment, saying "he was too far to the left," says Margolin.

"There was no meeting or exchange of opinions, and the decision was taken without any regard for my professional skills," said Margolin, who stressed he was never active in any political party or identified with any movement.

"This incident reflects Saar's approach to Jewish education," said the academic. "It's a cynical position, influenced by political calculations.

The Education Ministry said Sa'ar "never confirmed Margolin's appointment," and that the ministry is not aware of Margolin's political views.

According to the statement, Shoshani gave the minister the names of several candidates and the minister chose Ish-Shalom.