Israeli Teachers Balk at State Curriculum on Rabin: No Mention of Yigal Amir

Several schools contacted by Haaretz said they aren’t using the ministry kits and are preparing their own lessons on democracy and public controversies.

Tomer Neuberg

Many teachers are not using the study kits provided by the Education Ministry to mark this week’s anniversary of the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, saying the kits focus too much on Rabin himself and barely touch on the circumstances of his assassination.

Teachers say the materials, prepared by the Education Ministry’s Headquarters for Civic Education and Shared Living, together with the Yitzhak Rabin Center, don’t describe the background to the assassination, don’t mention the events that preceded it, and don’t even mention assassin Yigal Amir’s name.

The kits, entitled “What to remember? How to remember?” only hint at the history in the introduction. For example, “The murder of Yitzhak Rabin has a significant place in shaping the identity of Israeli society, because it serves as a warning sign to all of us, attesting to what is liable to happen if we allow disagreements to threaten the joint social fabric.”

There is also a reference to the events of this past summer, which included “harsh responses of intolerance, racism, and violence that went as far as undermining public order and the rule of law. These serious phenomena, like the expressions of incitement that preceding Rabin’s murder, strengthen the need for us as a society to observe the limits of discourse even during a dispute, and not to lapse as a society into acts of extreme violence that put our existence as a Jewish and democratic state at risk.”

Yet none of these issues come up in the activities the kits suggest be conducted with the pupils.

“Based on these materials, Rabin was a great guy, a nice guy, and suddenly he was murdered,” said I., a principal in the Sharon region. “It isn’t clear from the materials why he was murdered. Maybe he was on the street and got caught in a gang war; maybe he owed someone money – we don’t know who killed him. We don’t know the background to his murder. There’s just a vague statement that he wanted peace and for that he was murdered.”

N., a teacher in a northern elementary school added, “I think that the issue has to be not the man himself but democracy. The kits talk about the person. It gets worse every year, this dealing with the person and not the substance of the issue. For young children it’s especially important to speak about how to resolve conflicts and disagreements.”

R., a teacher in Jerusalem, agrees that the kits lack historic background, but thinks they still have a positive side. “What’s good about the kits is that they leave a lot of room for the pupil; they don’t preach but remain open for his approach. I like the way they raise the dilemma of whether there even should be a memorial day and how to mark it, because the kids talk about this.”

Several schools contacted by Haaretz said they aren’t using the ministry kits and are preparing their own lessons on democracy and public controversies. Some schools, primarily ultra-Orthodox and state religious schools, don’t hold any special lessons or events related to Rabin at all.

The Education Ministry said, “Every year another topic is chosen for the focus of the class materials. This year it was decided to deal with the issue of remembering the various aspects of the life and work of Yitzhak Rabin the leader, so that the younger generation could get to know him.”