Israel Schedules Nationwide Math Test on International Holocaust Day

Memo issued by the ministry's director general requires schools to officially observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Education Ministry has scheduled the high school matriculation exam in mathematics on International Holocaust Remembrance Day observed in Israel and worldwide.

High school teachers who planned special activities for their students to mark the occasion now say that the ministry's scheduling of the test on January 27 means that there will be no mention of the day whatsoever, especially among upperclassmen.

"This is a case of insensitivity to significant dates on the calendar on the part of ministry officials," said Dr. Nili Keren, a Holocaust studies expert at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College in Tel Aviv.

A memo issued by the ministry's director general requires schools to officially observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ministry officials said in response that they are checking the matter.

In November 2005, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Israel's proposal to mark a global remembrance day for the Holocaust on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

The UN resolution called on member states to "develop educational programs that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust," rejected any mention of Holocaust denial, and condemned all instances of religious intolerance and racism and violence against groups based on their ethnic background.

In the wake of the UN resolution, the Israeli government passed a motion in early 2006 which designated January 27 as "International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust."

Aside from mandating that schools observe the day, the Education Ministry also issued lesson guidelines specifically dedicated to the subject.

"The practical significance of scheduling the math test on International Holocaust Remembrance Day is that we have to cancel a civics lesson on the matter," said a high school teacher from the center of the country. "On the one hand the Education Ministry obligates us to recognize the day, but on the other hand it demonstrates contempt for the same day."

"[The holiday] is an opportunity to delve into the universal aspects of the Holocaust rather than solely view it through the Jewish or Israeli prism," another teacher said. "In my view this is of great value, especially considering the very clear lessons that are drawn from the students' trips to Poland and from [the national] Holocaust Remembrance Day."

Despite the Education Ministry's directive, in practice many schools do not observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an official with one of the country's Holocaust memorial institutions said.

"It is inconceivable that the Education Ministry would prevent students from being exposed to International Holocaust Remembrance Day," Keren said. "Deciding to have the test on this exact date is indicative of a significant obtuseness."