Official Israeli Curriculum Likens Ariel Sharon to Moses

Study material following Sharon's death overlooks Lebanon War and other controversial chapters in life of late leader.

Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
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Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

A curriculum to teach students about former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, published by the Education Ministry in the wake of his death, likens the former Israeli leader to Moses and contains no mention of the controversial episodes in his life.

The material, intended for fourth- to ninth-grade classes, also asks students to compare Peres’ eulogy of Sharon with King David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan.

Ministry officials issued a directive to schools to have their pupils devote class time to learning about “Ariel Sharon’s character, activity and lifetime achievement.” Some of the lesson plans, however, seem reminiscent of a personality cult. For example, one unit, entitled “The late Ariel Sharon: An indefatigable leader,” reads in part: “In this unit, the pupils will examine Sharon’s bold leadership as discussed in the eulogy of President Shimon Peres, and will offer their views on it.” Part of another unit reads: “The leader as shepherd: In this unit, the pupils will examine the image of the shepherd as adopted by Ariel Sharon as compared with that of Moses, the faithful shepherd [a popular description of Moses in Jewish tradition], and draw conclusions from the comparison in view of the president’s description of Sharon’s leadership.”

The last unit, entitled “Eulogy for a leader,” states: “The pupils will examine the relevance of King David’s lament on Mt. Gilboa as an elegy for Sharon, the bold military commander, and will compare King David’s lament with the president’s eulogy.”

The lesson plans ignore most of the controversial episodes of Sharon’s life such as the Lebanon War, the massacres in Sabra and Chatila or the investigation of his sons. All the units include excerpts of Peres’s eulogy.

Any controversial parts of Sharon’s career that are mentioned receive no elaboration. One example is its description of Unit 101, the army unit Sharon established that engaged in several controversial actions such as the attack on the Jordanian village of Qibya, in which innocent people were killed and which drew worldwide condemnation. “In 1953, Sharon established Unit 101,” reads the text. “The unit carried out retaliatory acts in response to terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians.” The link to which the text directs readers also makes no specific mention of Unit 101’s violent acts and its killing of innocent people.

The oddest unit, entitled “The leader as shepherd,” reads in part: “In 1972, Ariel Sharon bought Havat Shikmim [Sycamore Farm], near Sderot, for sheep-raising, and lived there for the rest of his life. Many pictures of Sharon from Havat Shikmim show him as a modern sheep farmer, sheep aficionado and shepherd.”

Later on, the text compares Sharon with the biblical figure of Moses with help of a quote from Midrash Shemot Rabba. The pupils are asked: “In your opinion, is the relationship between the traits of a shepherd and the traits of a leader appropriate for Ariel Sharon? [Such as?] Give reasons for your answers. Base them on events from his life.”

The unit entitled “The leader as family man” includes another excerpt from Peres’s eulogy: “Arik was an exemplary family man. He saw the nation of Israel as his extended family.” The pupils are asked: “In your opinion, is there a connection between Sharon as the ‘exemplary family man’ and as the ‘great leader’? Why?”

The last unit, entitled “Elegy for a leader,” compares Peres’s eulogy of Sharon with King David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17–27). One segment of the unit is entitled “Swifter than eagles, stronger than lions: Ariel Sharon as a lion.” The text reads, in part: “The word ‘ariel’ in Hebrew means, among other things, ‘mighty hero.’ It is also the name of Ariel Sharon, who was popularly known as Arik Sharon.” Pupils are asked to “find an act of courage and heroism in Ariel Sharon’s life to which the quote ‘swifter than eagles, stronger than lions’ might be applied.” They are also asked to “compare the president’s eulogy for Ariel Sharon with King David’s lament. What can you learn about Ariel Sharon from such a comparison, and what can it teach you about King David’s lament?”

"The leader as shepherd," one of the units in the Education Ministry's new curriculum on Ariel Sharon, shown above on his farm in the Negev. Credit: Moshe Milner

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