Israel Mulls Rewarding Schools That Excel in Jewish Studies

Schools excelling in Jewish history and Zionist heritage would boost their rankings according to new criteria, while the system would also be adapted to accommodate Arab schools.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at a meeting, February 16, 2016.
Moti Milrod

The Education Ministry is considering including criteria related to Jewish heritage studies among the measurements by which high schools are ranked.

Currently, the three top-rating criteria involve the percentage of graduates who serve in the army; the percentage who earn a matriculation certificate; and the extent of efforts to prevent students from dropping out of school.

When Education Minister Naftali Bennett took office last year, he announced his intention to develop additional criteria that would encourage high schools to excel also based on other measures.

As reported on Channel 1’s “Mabat” news program on Wednesday evening, the ministry is now working on a fourth criterion relating to Jewish heritage. However, the ministry said about 20 specific measures of achievement are being examined, which will ultimately be whittled down to four or five. The new criteria are expected to be applied beginning in the fall for the new school year.

The measurement of schools’ achievement in the field of Jewish heritage is an effort to encourage schools to excel in teaching Jewish history, the Jewish holidays and Zionist heritage. The ministry is also working on comparable criteria for Arab-Israeli schools.

“I do not believe in blurring identities. I believe in strengthening identities. Values come above everything,” Bennett previously stated. The education minister also heads Habayit Hayehudi, which was created around the nucleus of the National Religious Party.

“Every child in the country needs to know the heritage he comes from. A Jewish child needs to know who Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, Maimonides, Hannah Szenes, S.Y. Agnon and Yoni Netanyahu are,” he added. Yonatan Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother, was killed in the 1976 Israeli commando raid in Entebbe that rescued passengers from a hijacked Air France plane.

Bennett also added that “every Muslim child needs to know his heritage and culture, and every Druze child his heritage. That’s the only way you have a strong identity. You are ripe to accept people who are different. I don’t believe in making a milkshake in which all of Israel’s students become a pink liquid.”

Students taking a matriculation exam at a high school in Hadera.
Alon Ron