In Israel's New Teaching Material on Jerusalem, Arabs Are Completely Absent

Draft of new curriculum marking 50 years of 'united Jerusalem' stresses continuity between King David's Jerusalem and modern-day capital, but ignores political disputes and the fact that a third of its residents are Arabs.

Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
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Israeli students in Har Homa settlement in Jerusalem, 2010.
Israeli students in Har Homa settlement in Jerusalem, 2010.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner / AP
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

The draft version of the Education Ministry’s curriculum marking 50 years of a “united Jerusalem” ignores political disputes over the city and the fact that a third of its residents are Arab. On the other hand, the draft stresses a continuity between King David's Jerusalem and the city's modern status as Israel's capital.

The ministry will shortly release the lesson plan, which will be taught in Israeli schools during the next academic year. It’s for grades 1 to 12 and can be integrated with subjects like history, Bible, Jewish heritage, geography and literature.

The draft was first reported on by Army Radio on Monday, and the ministry is expected to produce the final version soon. According to Army Radio, the draft ignores political disputes and the city’s Arab population. However, the ministry insists this is not correct and that the curriculum will devote substantial material to “the multicultural mosaic in the city, and Jerusalem as a city holy to three religions.”

The plan repeatedly emphasizes the link between Jerusalem as the modern state’s capital and Jerusalem as the capital in the days of King David, and tries to establish continuity between the historical periods.

“Since the days of King David more than 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem was the heart of the Jewish people. And throughout the long period of exile, it continued to live in the hearts and minds of Jews in their various exiles, in the East and West,” the introduction says.

The stated aim of the curriculum is “to expose pupils to the importance of Jerusalem and its place in Jewish consciousness, and to deepen the pupils’ relationship to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

In Grades 5 and 6, the “united Jerusalem” curriculum will be integrated into Bible studies, since fifth-graders study the Book of Samuel, which describes King David’s reign. Fifth-graders will study the considerations for choosing Jerusalem as the capital of the House of David, while sixth-graders will study the reign of Solomon, the construction of the Temple and “the place of Jerusalem in Psalms as the city united as the chosen city of God.”

As part of Jewish heritage studies, pupils will learn about “the image of the State of Israel and the state of the Jewish people,” and “Jerusalem as an expression of the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and as an expression of sovereignty.” They will learn about Jerusalem in the Bible, in prayers, poetry and religious customs, as well as the symbols of sovereignty in Jerusalem and “Jerusalem as a city holy to three religions.”

The list enrichment materials suggested to teachers include the website Har Hakodesh, which is run by a group that organizes visits to the Temple Mount.

Although the curriculum for junior high schools includes a geography section on the makeup of the city’s varied populations, the pupils will focus on Jerusalem neighborhoods including Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Mea She’arim, the Bukharan Quarter and Rehavia. No Arab neighborhood is listed.

The Education Ministry told Haaretz, “To mark 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem, the 5777 school year was declared the year of Jerusalem in the education system. As a result, ministry teams are working on preparing a comprehensive curriculum on the subject, both for the Jewish sector and the Arab sector. It must be stressed that the claims you make are not correct, since a third of the curriculum will deal with the multicultural mosaic in the city, and with Jerusalem as a city holy to three religions.”

The latest draft version of the curriculum, the ministry said, describes the city “from its Arab and Muslim aspects,” and offers “a basic familiarity with Islam and its connection to Jerusalem.”

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