armenians - American Red Cross
Armenians being marched to prison by Turkish soldiers in 1915. Since the last attempt 10 years ago to teach a unit on genocide in general, the issue has been removed from the curriculum. Photo by American Red Cross
Text size

This Sunday is the 96th memorial day for the 1.5 million Armenians whose blood was spilled. When it comes to the holocaust of others, Israel, too, is in denial. True, Turkey today is an ally that has violated the alliance, so we have vented our righteous anger at it, but still we haven't changed our policy.

It's a that's still looking for the hands that perpetrated it. But not only in relations between countries is nothing new. Just between us, it's business as usual in the educational world, too. Since the last attempt 10 years ago to teach a unit on the issue, the horrors of genocide in general have been totally removed from the curriculum. The Open University is today the sole institution in Israel that holds a course on "Forgetting and Denying" - 700 students are keen to find out what the system is trying to hide.

There is a heavy price to pay for denial. This month, figures were published on the opinions of our country's young people; figures that have revolted us. Some 60 percent believe that a strong leader is more important than the rule of law and that a Jewish state is preferable to a democratic state. About half the respondents would like to see Arabs prevented from being elected to the Knesset. They also object to having Arab neighbors and do not believe in coexistence. That's the fruit of the labor of the local version of the madrassa. Should we train up a child in the way he should go, or the way we should go?

So meet our children and pupils; they're getting uglier just as the Education Ministry is investing most of its spiritual and material resources in "strengthening Jewish and Zionist values." The focus is so strong on "Israeli culture and heritage" that education about democracy, civics and coexistence has been dropped from the new work plan that was recently sent to the schools. Only half the Jewish and democratic state has been left, but without both parts the whole cannot exist. If it's not democratic, it will simply not exist.

That's what happens when someone's whole world is focused on Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron; when we wallow only in our own dust. If we extricated ourselves for a moment from the mental and cultural ghetto, if we opened up a little window to the values of democracy, peace, tolerance and pluralism - to getting to know the other and accepting him - the face of the generation would be less canine and more human.

What's the good of increasing by 2 percent the number of high-school students who are entitled to a matriculation certificate if the Jewish mind of the citizen that results is brainwashed with racist and anti-democratic views? A good Jew, when he is in his tent or outside, has to be a humane person - that's a precondition, unless one believes that the two are mutually exclusive and on a collision course. To be a Jew, it's enough to be born to the right mother; the effort is totally up to her with or without an epidural. To be a humane person, a personal contribution is required.

And no one is a human being without recognizing that the other is also one, and that it is important to get to know him, both his shortcomings and hopes. No one is born a murderer and no one is destined to be murdered, and no nation has a monopoly on suffering and mourning. The warning sign before a holocaust, genocide, politicide, ethnocide or ethnic cleansing is the same everywhere and at all times. True, learned research distinguishes between each, but the victims don't care about the minute distinctions.

Israel is the last country that can allow itself to be in denial - that's a breach that attracts murderers, and here they come. And if the people in the President's Residence, the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry still refuse to understand, then the Education Ministry has to explain it to them; that's its job. It's not enough to have more matriculation certificates piling up on the desk for the minister and the director general to sign if these are certificates of a calamitous failure.