Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed in a new school year on Thursday by visiting a elementary school in an Israeli Arab and telling the children "that we were meant to live together," while also stating that he wished for them to be "loyal citizens and integrated in the State of Israel."
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Netanyahu made the visit to town of Tamra, just north east of Haifa, where he met some 200 students, alongside Education Minister Naftali Bennett as 2,232,172 students began the school year across the country accompanied by an educational staff of some 180,000.
"I expect two things from you," Netanyahu told the students. "First, listen to your parents and your teachers, and second, learn to write and read. Learn Hebrew and Arabic and English. I want you to learn the history of the Jewish people and the Arab people, and I want you to learn the truth - that we were meant to live together."
Netanyahu turned to one of the students and asked what she wanted to when she grew up, "A teacher? A doctor? I want you to be doctors and scientists and writers and anything you want to be - to be loyal citizens and integrated in the State of Israel. This is your country."
Bennett opened his comments with an Arabic blessing for the new school year and continued on to say "We see all Israeli children, Jews, Arabs, Haredim and Druze, as our children. For the first time, every Arab child is learning Hebrew as a requirement and not in third grade, because we want all children to know how to speak."
He added that "We've chosen to give the students all the appropriate tools for the 21st century. We won't give up on any children in the State of Israel. I want to wish all of you a successful school year. We love you."
"This is a holiday morning," Bennett said, "The school year opened today as planned. We are waiting for all the children of Israel with open arms. The education system today is more personal and professional than ever. We reduced the number of students in a class to an average of just 28 in the first and second grade, add added an additional assistant to all kindergarten classes, so that every child receives more love and kindness. The education system is focused today on academic and ethical excellence. May all Israel's children have a successful school year."
158,958 students began first grade today. 123,497 will conclude their studies in 12th grade this year.