Israeli Summer Camps Told to Ease Up on Jerusalem Activities

Some found to be taking theme too far, but say they were only following Education Ministry guidelines

Revelers celebrating Jerusalem Day 2016, marking 50 years of the city's reunification, outside Jerusalem's Old City, May 24, 2017.

The Education Ministry has instructed officials at the district levels to reduce the number of planned activities having to do with Jerusalem at this summer’s ministry-subsidized day camps for grades 1 through 3. This comes after some program planners apparently went overboard in following the theme of “Jerusalem” chosen by the ministry as the main topic for day camps this year. “Jerusalem” was also this year’s topic in the school system.

According to the timetables of the camps in Modi’in and Rehovot, almost all the activities are scheduled to deal with the subject. For example, included among the activities are: learning the many names of Jerusalem; the race to Jerusalem – a sports activity related to Jerusalem; the construction of a catapult – a weapon from the period of the city’s walls; the importance of commemorating Jerusalem on every happy occasion; creating a parachute – related to the way Jerusalem was liberated in the Six-Day War.

In a letter sent last week, Etti Sasi, a director of elementary school education in the ministry, wrote to the district directors, supervisors and heads of education departments in the municipalities that “the plans that we have received indicate that some of the schools incorrectly interpreted our instructions, and most of the content on each of the days deals with Jerusalem – that was not the intention!”

Sasi added, “I would like to clarify that we recommend only two activities a week on the subject of Jerusalem, with an emphasis on the experiential aspect.” She also wrote that “the guiding principle in the Summer Vacation Schools is experiential activities, enrichment activities and special classes in the fields of art, sports, science and technology, and more.

The Education Ministry’s day camp program began three years ago in first and second grade, and this year will expand to third grade. The local council is responsible for the program in terms of logistics, whereas the ministry is responsible for the content. The ministry decides on the general topic, but every local council creates its own timetable for the three weeks of the day camp. Every school has a coordinator, who is a teacher, preferably from the school staff, who is in charge of implementing the content, and is responsible for the counselors. In some schools the principal himself decided on the program.

The ministry’s new instructions, to reduce the number of activities about Jerusalem, is surprising, because the ministry itself decided on the subject and the coordinators had a seminar where they were taught how to plan the timetable. Haaretz learned that some schools even received a sample schedule that includes activities almost exclusively on the subject of Jerusalem, and apparently planned their events accordingly.

The Education Ministry declined to respond.