Education Ministry Bumps Professor From Post for Criticizing 'Superficial' Teaching of Holocaust

The Education Ministry has removed Prof. Hanna Yablonka of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from her post as chair of the experts committee on the subject of history. Yablonka had voiced criticism in recent months of ministry policy on how history is taught in schools.

Ministry sources say Yablonka's public criticism was the main reason for her being removed as committee chair. The decision was made by the head of the ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat, Zvi Zameret.

Yablonka refused to comment on the circumstances of her removal but said: "I stand behind the things I have said. To date, there has been no serious discussion of the problems I raised."

The ministry said simply that "the professor's tenure has ended."

At the ministry, along with various officials in charge of subjects being taught, there are committees of experts, or professional committees, which include senior academic figures, veteran teachers and representatives from the teaching colleges. Their main role is to support and advise ministry officials on professional decisions, like what subjects deserve emphasis in the various disciplines, identifying pedagogic problems, problems in teaching of particular subjects, etc.

Yablonka, one of the leading historians in Israel, lectures in the History of Israel Department at Ben-Gurion University and specializes in the study of the Holocaust and Israeli society. She is being replaced as head of the committee by Dr. Simcha Goldin, of Tel Aviv University. He specializes in Ashkenazi Jewry of the Middle Ages.

In an interview to Haaretz four months ago, Yablonka said that the Education Ministry has held nearly no discussion on the goals of teaching history, and that the subject is suffering from chronic lack of teaching time, and that is leading to a very superficial exposure to the subject.

Yablonka also was critical of what she believed was a mistaken emphasis given in the teaching of the Holocaust as part of the history curriculum in schools.

The article in Haaretz made ripples at the ministry and beyond. "It was clear that the heads of the ministry would remove her from her position at the first opportunity," a source who had worked with Yablonka told Haaretz. "She tried to lead a more critical approach,; however, at this time, there's no willingness to listen to views that diverge from the official line," the source said.

Sources close to Yablonka said yesterday that "the State of Israel is passing through a process of becoming inured, which finds expression not only at the Ministry of Education. History and education are our only strategic assets but there is no systemic approach to the subject. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar sets the educational agenda and he is interested more in stories about forefathers that will be taught in the coming year."

Yablonka had charged in an interview in Haaretz that Sa'ar is only interested in getting his name in the paper, and that there is no organized, methodical study of history.