A Herzliya elementary school that hired an Arab teacher has decided not to let her teach Hebrew and Bible, instead hiring a Jewish mentor teacher for those two subjects.
On Monday, Channel 12 television reported that parents of second graders at the Nof Yam elementary school had protested the hiring of an Arab teacher. They argued that because the teacher is Muslim, “she cannot educate them in Jewish values at the level the parents expect.” They also complained to the Education Ministry, which has not responded.
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The principal then reached an agreement with the teacher that her work would be overseen by a veteran teacher, as if she were still a student teacher, as well as by the school’s administration. Moreover, a Jewish teacher would teach the students Hebrew and Torah in her stead.
The Arab teacher will now be defined as the “homeroom and math teacher,” while the Jewish mentor teacher will be the “Hebrew teacher.” The agreement also stipulates that the Arab teacher won’t teach materials related to Jewish holidays; instead, this material will be taught to the entire grade together.
The principal said the agreement had nothing to do with the parents’ complaints, and that the teacher accepted it willingly.
But under Education Ministry regulations, the homeroom teacher is supposed to teach all subjects in first and second grade. Any deviation from this rule requires the approval of a ministry supervisor.
The Arab teacher is one of five new teachers at the school this year. She previously taught kindergarten in a different city, and has never taught elementary school.
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In response to the Channel 12 report on the parents’ complaint, the Education Ministry said the teacher is a “professional and worthy educator, and the ministry condemns any attempt to disqualify her because of her ethnicity.”
But since parents learned that she had been hired, they have complained repeatedly to the principal.
“We asked the principal what will happen on sensitive issues that the teacher didn’t grow up with – Jewish holidays, the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, Israeli soldiers,” one said. He said the principal had replied that the teacher would have “backing” – another teacher who would work with her and “teach things she can’t teach.”
Commenting on the fact that the new teacher will have a mentor teacher helping her as well as another teacher to teach Hebrew and Torah, one parent said the mentor teacher “is essentially taking the essence of the homeroom teacher’s job away from the teacher herself. So why shouldn’t she be the teacher?”
The parents, who haven’t met the new teacher, said in their letter to the principal that their objection to her is related to the Education Ministry’s own goals. According to the ministry’s website, these goals include “educating to Jewish and Zionist values and the unique values of our tradition in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” But the new teacher can’t educate children in these values, they said, because she identifies as Palestinian.
“This definitely isn’t racism, and it’s also not discrimination,” one parent said. “There’s a difference in the value system – just as they wouldn’t let me give a class about the Nakba in an Arab school. Values are part of a person’s identity, and you can’t ask someone to inculcate values that he doesn’t share. Bleeding hearts are trying to resolve this contradiction on the teacher’s back. That isn’t fair to her, either.”
All the parents who spoke with Haaretz insisted that they object to the newcomer only as a homeroom teacher with responsibility for teaching the children all subjects, and wouldn’t object to her teaching specific subjects like math.
“She’s suitable for and could be very successful in a job as a math teacher,” one said. “But she’s less suited to meet the criteria set by Israel’s Education Ministry for the job of a homeroom teacher.” In its definition of a homeroom teacher’s job, the ministry’s website said that “the goal of state education is to instill a basic education that rests on the values of Israeli culture and scientific achievement, as well as on love of the homeland and loyalty to the state and the people of Israel.”
Another parent said, “We have the right to ask her whether she’ll be silent during the sirens” on Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Or will we have to wait for the sirens to find this out?
“If I tell my child to stand” for the siren, the parent added, “and he replies, ‘But the teacher doesn’t stand,’ what will I tell him?”