An Education Ministry decision to bar a Kfar Sava school from teaching sexually explicit poetry by Israeli writer Yona Wallach shows that Israel is becoming a mini-Iran, Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk said over the weekend.
After receiving complaints from parents of students in Edna Resh's literature class at Rabin High School in Kfar Sava, Shlomo Hertzig, the ministry's supervisor of literature education, ordered the school and Resh to stop teaching Wallach's sexually explicit poems, Yedioth Ahronoth reported last week.
Many of Resh's students protested the decision, and were joined over the weekend by some of Israel's most prominent writers and literature educators.
"We are gradually becoming a mini-Iran," said Kaniuk. "Everyone talks about the threat of Iran's bombs and missiles, but they forget that the worst thing is this lousy religion, which is flourishing nowadays. They're taking over our lives. It's terrible what they've done to the Jewish religion. Yona Wallach is a terrific poet."
Wallach's poem "You Are (He Is) My Girlfriend," which refers explicitly to sexual organs and raises questions about sexual identity, is one of several controversial literary texts taught at Rabin High School as part of a three-year-old program aimed at encouraging students to think critically, said Resh and Regev Yakobovich, who teaches the program with her.
As part of the program, 10th-graders through 12th-graders choose two topics to learn about per year. The Wallach poem that has since been blacklisted was introduced as part of a class called "Pride and Prejudice: Single-sex Couples - Perversion or Choice?"
Other subjects include "Belief in God: Opiate for the Masses or Commitment to Values?" as well as "The Army As a Test of Israeliness" and "On the Arab Image in Israel - Fifth Column or Free Citizen?"
"The Education Ministry has completely given up on its basic job - shaping an active citizen within society - and has remained solely within the professional sphere, transmiting information and matriculation exams," said Yakobovich. "No one wants to get involved in conflicts, but the young people who are a bit more on the ball than the adults are are demanding it from us, demanding that we teach them, in the broad and true sense."
Gali Siton, a 12th-grade student at Rabin who came to her teacher's defense, said the controversy has made her realize "that we're lucky, that I gained the opportunity to ask questions."
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar spoke to Resh on Friday, telling her that "there are various restrictions" and that he was looking into the matter, Resh said. She said Sa'ar apologized for what she underwent and said he wanted her to "feel protected." Ministry officials said they were not planning to initiate any proceedings against her.
Meanwhile, poet Meir Wieseltier and Menachem Perry, a literature professor at Tel Aviv University, came out against the ban.
"Maybe [Hertzig] thinks there's no need to teach poems, just to teach how to raise the flag during roll call," said Wieseltier. "The flag is raised during roll call with a rope, not a poem."
Perry said a curriculum could not be imposed from outside the classroom, adding that one can teach anything to a "good class."