About 200 people demonstrated on Monday near a Kiryat Tivon high school to protest the possible dismissal of a teacher accused by a student of expressing “extreme leftist views” in the classroom.
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Students and alumni of ORT Greenberg gathered to support homeroom teacher Adam Verete, along with parents and students at other schools.
The protest was intended to “support students’ and teachers’ freedom of expression,” said a student who took part. “It’s a great lesson in civics, and it’s a shame that ORT and the Education Ministry don’t see it that way.”
Another student said teachers at the school have said in private that they support the protest, which includes a student-initiated petition in support of Verete.
Verete’s pre-dismissal hearing last week has prompted a great deal of criticism, as has the Education Ministry’s failure to support teachers like him.
“It is not only the right, but also the duty of the teacher to express one’s opinion to the students, as a participant in a debate who does not force his or will on the students,” said a group of teachers from Jerusalem’s Leyada High School in an open letter released this week. “And unfortunately, it seems that the principles of democracy that we teach – tolerance, pluralism and freedom of speech – are not being realized here, forced instead to remain nothing more than insignificant theories.”
The teachers called on the Education Ministry “to stand behind civics teachers who have difficult work, rather than lending a helping hand to those who act against stated policy.”
Verete came under the microscope after Sapir Sabah, one of his 12th-grade students, wrote a letter to Education Minister Shay Piron saying that her teacher “makes sure to stress his political view in every class.”
“He explains that he’s an extreme leftist, and from his perspective our state does not belong to the Jews, but to the Palestinians, and that we, the Jews, aren’t meant to be here,” Sabah wrote. She said Verete accuses the Israeli army of acting “with unusual brutality and violence” and said he told of attending a conference abroad in which he’d shouted, “Viva Palestine.” When she objected, Sabah wrote: “He laughed and said, ‘As far as you’re concerned, killing all the Arabs is what you want.’”
Verete urged his fellow teachers at the high school to recognize that “it’s allowed, and important, for a teacher to express his political views on every subject.”
“It’s important to debate with the students on every subject, especially on ‘explosive issues,’ and it’s important that the students know that we are people with ideas and ideals we strive for, that we care about what goes on in the world, and they are not just drones, serving a degenerate system,” Verete wrote in a letter sent Sunday.