loyalty - Eliahu Hershkovitz  - October 22 2010
The student council. Photo by Eliahu Hershkovitz
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The student council at the Nofei Habsor high school in the western Negev has launched an initiative to get people to sign letter of commitment to the values of peace and democracy.

The students hope to gather tens of thousands of signatures before sending the letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

The campaign was initiated by civics teacher Lili Tal. "We host a democracy week every year. In 1995, I wrote a letter to Leah Rabin with a commitment text and she was really moved," said Tal. "This year, we decided to renew the initiative. I brought it up to the student council and they decided to endorse it. The initiative is based on many students being concentrated on their personal circle. It's important for us to have teenagers speaking out about such issues."

Signatories of the letter commit themselves to a number of rights and values.

"I hereby renew my commitment to the values of peace and democracy," the letter reads. "I will always be guided by these values: The sanctity of human life, the equality of human beings, and maintaining human freedom everywhere. I will always be committed to maintain the values of peace and democracy and protect them: The value of tolerance, the value of openness, the value of non-violence, and the value of always accepting the majority's verdict in any matter concerning all of the society of the state. I will never be silent in the face of opinion or violence aiming to harm democracy or peace. I will never join a silent majority placidly or fearfully observing violence. I will always lend my voice to defend the values of democracy and peace. I hereby commit myself."

Student council member Gal Harris, a 10th-grader, said the council goes from class to class explaining the pact.

"Nobody is forced to sign, but we try to explain the purpose and the importance of the values in the pact," she said.

Harris said she is completely opposed to Avigdor Lieberman's loyalty oath. "I've been thinking in recent days about the link between our pact and Lieberman's oath, and ours is completely different. I don't understand how you can force Palestinians who want to come into the country to commit themselves to a Jewish and democratic state, when by the very statement of it being Jewish it stops being democratic," she said.

Haim Jelin, the head of the Eshkol regional council, where the school is located, said he was very proud of the teenager raising awareness of the importance of securing democratic values, "and finding non-violent ways to resolve disagreements in society."