Israeli Academics Threaten Suit Over Controversial Civics Textbook

Textbook, which some say favors 'Jewish values' over 'democratic values,' wasn't discussed with civics education committee, scholars write in letter to Education Minister Bennett.

An archive photo showing school kids with an Israeli flag.
Tomer Appelbaum

Four scholars and educators have sent a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett warning that they would petition the High Court of Justice unless use was discontinued of written material on concepts in civics classes that they said had major flaws.

The material has been the subject of dispute among academics and educators, some of whom argue the material favors “Jewish values” over “democratic values,” others arguing the opposite.

The signatories objected that the committee on civics education had not been consulted on the workbook’s content, and it was being used as study material despite a lack of the thought processes, emphases and critique required by the Education Ministry leadership.

The workbook consists of a list of important concepts in the civics curriculum, succinctly defined, which the students are expected to know ahead of the upcoming civics matriculation exam this summer.

The signatories to the letter are Dr. Riki Tesler, Prof. As’ad Ghanem and Dr. Aryeh Kizel, along with Gal Oron, a civics teacher.

The letter was also addressed to Education Ministry director general Michal Cohen and the acting chairwoman of the pedagogic secretariat, Dalia Fenig.

The committee on civics education had not been consulted about the workbook, the letter said, and “when it was brought to their attention and they expressed their opposition to its use as a pedagogical tool and study material that grossly exceeds the approved curriculum — their opinion was ignored.”

Three out of four of the representatives of the public on the committee resigned in protest over the workbook.

The letter demands that use of the workbook be discontinued as required reading because the matriculation exam for the summer date has already been written and the answers to its questions should be “based on approved books and not necessarily on the booklet of concepts.”It says the use of the workbook is “beyond and against the rules set by the committee, against the instructions of the pedagogic secretariat and relevant procedures.”