Israel Turns Down Bid to Teach Palestinian Poems in Schools

Supporters: It is our duty to present our students with how 'the others' relate to Jerusalem.

The Education Ministry has decided not to publish an academic paper recommending that high school students study both Jewish and Palestinian poems about Jerusalem in their literature classes, even though the journal to which it was submitted had previously accepted the paper.

The journal "Halakha Uma'aseh Betihnun Limudim," which is published by the ministry's curriculum department, accepted the paper for publication last year.

But several weeks ago, the journal's editorial board notified the paper's authors, Dr. Lea Baratz and Dr. Roni Reingold of the Achva College of Education, that "the article presents problems both in its content as well as its methodology."

Baratz said the decision shows that the Education Ministry has adopted a close-minded approach.

"Rejecting the article after it was accepted is a flawed decision that stems from the new approach in the Education Ministry that does not allow for openness," Baratz said.

The Education Ministry said the article was rejected because it "did not meet the required scientific and methodological criteria."

"After the submission of the paper for review, the researchers were asked to make corrections," the ministry said in a statement. "The authors did not implement some of the suggested changes despite repeated requests. As such, it was decided at this stage not to include the article in the journal."

The ministry said the topic described in the article was worthy of publication.

Authors call for 'moral courage'

The article, called "Moral Conflicts in a Democratic and Nationally Diverse Society," calls on teachers, particularly literature teachers, to summon "moral courage" in teaching works that can provoke debate and are not included in the official curriculum.

Baratz and Reingold argue that since literature teachers can choose which works to teach, such a step "can to some extent serve as a way to deal with a situation whereby the Education Ministry makes efforts to avoid the use of literary and historic texts that are artistically, philosophically and politically charged."

The article also examines the extent to which Jewish and Arab teachers are prepared to introduce works that fall outside the consensus of each ethnic group.

For Arab teachers, Baratz and Reingold suggest "Yerushalayim Adei Ad" ("Eternal Jerusalem") by Uri Zvi Greenberg, while Jewish teachers were given the assignment of presenting a work by Palestinian poet Nidaa Khoury.

"It turns out that most teachers are not courageous," Reingold said. "A large number of them did not agree to be interviewed or to identify themselves by name."

The paper argues that teachers have a duty to help their students realize that there are multiple ways of looking at the world.

"The purpose of education is to encourage the student to deal with varied worldviews," write Baratz and Reingold. "This cannot be done by way of ignorance. Those who believe their views are objective absolute truths become dogmatic, ignorant and narrow-minded. It is our duty to present our students with how 'the others' relate to Jerusalem."