Group of Israeli Educators Seek to Protect Public Schools From State

Organizers seek to protect nonreligious schools from what they say is government's efforts to impose Orthodox Judaism and ultra-nationalism on students

Or Kashti
Or Kashti
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File photo: Students take an exam in Ashdod, Israel.
File photo: Students take an exam in Ashdod, Israel.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

A group of activist educators is seeking to protect nonreligious state schools from what they say is the Education Ministry’s efforts to impose Orthodox Judaism and ultra-nationalism on students.

The organizers also aim to prod parent-teacher associations and local government officials into fighting for their demand to help set the curriculum in their schools.

Yet another goal of theirs is to give the state schools equal standing to the state-religious schools, and to enshrine in law the schools’ right to pedagogical autonomy, including the establishment of an independent education council.

As various secular groups have succeeded in curbing the growing influence of religious nongovernmental associations in the country’s ostensibly nonreligious public schools, the first of these goals seems attainable, while the other two would require a long public battle and the active participation of mayors.

Organizers of the initiative, whose tentative name translates to “Educating for Democracy,” include professors Nimrod Aloni, Yoram Harpaz, Daniel Bartal and Mordechai Kremnitzer (legal analyst for Haaretz), as well as Riki Tessler, Mohammad Essawi and Michal Shalev-Reicher, president of the Israeli Secular Forum.

“There are moments in which complacently sitting on the fence is tantamount to acquiescence to the destruction of the home we share,” the organizers wrote in their draft platform.

“We see how similar measures are being taken in Turkey, Hungary, Poland and other states,” they continued. “Common to all is their reliance on majority rule as the sole expression of democracy, while brutally trampling on human rights, civic equality, freedom of expression, the separation of powers and the independence of the Supreme Court, the state comptroller, the media, academia and artistic creation.”

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