Israel Shouldn't Brainwash Its Children

There is nothing easier than getting preeschoolers to parrot an anthem and getting them excited by chauvinistic and religious ceremonies.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The Ministry of Education gave preschool supervisors and teachers a packet for planning and preparation for the coming school year. The first chapter is on "education to Zionist, Jewish, democratic and social values," much like the educational goals for elementary and secondary schools. After perusing it, it is hard to decide whether to laugh or cry: The worldview that guides it is that superficial and chauvinistic.

The preschool teachers are supposed to begin the school day by raising the national flag and singing the anthem. The success of this initiative - "by Independence Day all the children will know the anthem's words" - will be determined "by how many preschool teachers discuss the symbols of the state: the flag, the symbol and the anthem." The teacher is also supposed to nurture "the children's identity, and feeling of socio-national and traditional affiliation."

Proponents claim these traditions are customary in large democracies, especially the United States. That is deceptive. You cannot compare long-standing traditions that created a clear civic common denominator in a society of immigrants with tendentious ad hoc regulations guided by a weak educational system subject to political manipulation, at a time when the society's political and cultural differences are becoming more profound.

This superficial brainwashing joins a series of Education Ministry initiatives in recent years, including those promoted under Minister Gideon Sa'ar: taking "Masa Mibereshit" (Journey from the Beginning ) tours initiated by Rabbi Mordechai Elon to the Cave of the Patriarchs and the City of David, bringing Israel Defense Forces officers into the classrooms, adopting graves and monuments of fallen soldiers, promoting a draft bill that requires the system to educate toward military and national service, and more.

These controversial measures mix religion, nationality and the army in the most simplistic manner. There is nothing easier than getting preeschoolers to parrot an anthem and getting them excited by chauvinistic and religious ceremonies. History proves, however, that these practices ultimately shatter the consensus over those symbols, turning them into objects of hatred and making them the property of one camp only: the one that forces its values on others.

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