Israel's Education Ministry Softens Stance on Mandatory Civics Booklet

Following court challenge, controversial booklet will now be recommended for use in the classroom rather than mandated.

Naftali Bennett speaks at the Knesset, May 30, 2016.
Isaac Harari, Knesset Spokesperson's Office

In the wake of a challenge in the High Court, the Education Ministry has reversed its stand on a new booklet of civics concepts and will recommend, rather than mandate, its use in the classroom.

The ministry’s representatives informed the High Court of Justice of its change in position late last week in response to a petition by a group of academics, civics teachers and parents' groups all demanding that the court order a halt to the use of the booklet in the coming school year.

The ministry denied the petitioners’ claims that the booklet was being used despite serious flaws in the preparation and approval of the text.

It said that it would continue recommending that teachers use the booklet, but that if students want to give a fuller answer in their civics matriculation exams, derived from textbooks, that more elaborate answer will be accepted.

According to the petition, the booklet of concepts “has become one of the most important tools in civics, even more important than the textbooks because the definitions are the obligatory ones for all students in their matriculation exams, rather than those in the approved civics textbooks.”

The petitioners also said the booklet had not been properly approved by the committee of experts that vets such texts and that it insulted and excluded the Arab population.

The Education Ministry told the court that the committee of experts is advisory only, and therefore it did not need to present the booklet to the committee for approval.

The ministry said the petitioners had misrepresented the booklet’s approval process in saying that there had been no academic and no Druze person involved in the process. It said that in its meeting in August 2015 there had been a representative of the Arab community, named Amru Agbariyeh and that the representative of the Druze community and the academic had been absent for personal reasons.

In response to the petitioners’ opposition to the way the concepts of Jewish identity and the Jewish majority were presented, the ministry said these subjects would not be on the matriculation exam until consultations on the matter were held.