Israeli Lecturer Forbids Traditional Jewish Expression, Causes Storm

Sapir College examiner instructed not to write 'with the help of God' on the board during an exam; College: A private initiative of the lecturer only.

Facebook/Gal Volinez

A lecturer at Sapir College in Sderot caused a storm on Wednesday when he instructed an examiner not to write the Hebrew acronym for “with the help of heaven” on the board while students sat an exam. 

The issue got attention after a student took a photograph of an envelope containing the papers for the exam in a course on government and politics. On the envelope, the lecturer had written, "Please don't write 'with the help of heaven' on the board," with the word "no" underlined. The picture was later posted online and shared widely.

The three-letter acronym Beit, Samekh, Dalet is actually from Aramaic – and is used in order not to write the name of God regularly by religious Jews, who often write it at the top of everything they write.

The college administration said “this is not the college’s policy but a private initiative by a lecturer. The matter will be examined.”

The students union said that after conducting its own inquiry, it seems this is only a one-time occurrence, and the instruction was written by the lecturer. The students union said it had asked the administration for an explanation of the lecturer’s “lack of sensitivity.”



There was another major blowup at Sapir at the end of December, when an art exhibition at the college, “The Power of the Word,” aroused great controversy. Works by Gal Volinez displayed at the exhibition included hamsas (palm-shaped amulets or wall hangings designed to ward off evil) inscribed with sayings like “In blood and fire we will redeem Palestine” and “Daesh” (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State), as well as a hamsa with, in Hebrew letters, “I will slaughter the Jew.” The last word was written as the Arabic word for “Jew,” transliterated into Hebrew.

The day after the exhibition opened, another student took the “Death to the Jew” hamsa off the wall and destroyed it. “I definitely took it off the wall with contempt, I definitely tore it into small pieces, and I am certainly satisfied with the act of stopping public incitement against the Jewish people,” said Dvir Kali, the student who destroyed the piece.

The exhibition prompted outrage from then-Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman of the religious Zionist Habayit Hayehudi party and from others on the political right wing. Wortzman wrote to the president of Sapir College Omri Yadlin asking him not to display the works, out of “fear for incitement under the cloak of academia.”

Another controversial part of the exhibition featured a video clip showing a tallit, or ritual prayer shawl, and tefillin (phylacteries) used as undergarments in a sexually explicit way. Many students asked to remove the display, but in the end Yadlin decided the clip would not run all the time but would be seen only when someone turned it on to see it.

Also featured at the exhibition were works by, among others, Avner Bar Hama, Moshe Gershuni, Micha Kirshner, David Reeb and David Tartakover.