Israeli Parents Urge Minister to Cancel School Trips to West Bank

Petition signed by 500 parents as of Tuesday night, was started after Education Minister announced school trips would visit archaeological site of Shiloh in the West Bank.

Hundreds of parents have signed a petition over the past two days refusing to allow their children to attend school field trips over the Green Line.

The petition, signed by 500 parents as of Tuesday night, was started after Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced recently that school trips would now visit the archaeological site of Shiloh in the northern West Bank. Some months ago, Sa'ar made the controversial decision that school children would be taken to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Gideon Sa'ar - Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

"Your political agenda is clear to us and it should be said in your favor that you do not bother to hide it. But your political positions are different and in fact in opposition to ours and therefore we cannot allow our sons and daughters to take a trip to Hebron, Shiloh or the rest of the sites and settlement beyond the agreed-on borders of Israel," the petition states.

The petition was signed "Concerned Mothers and Fathers throughout the country."

The petition also called on Sa'ar, as "education minister of all Israelis" to "direct school trips to areas that our children can visit. If you do not, our children will be excluded from an important social and educational experience."

Jerusalemite Tamar Verta started the petition. "If we don't inform the school administration that they must plan trips within the Green Line, we will find our children visiting Yitzhar and Havat Ma'on," she said, referring to two Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

One parent, Ehud Inbar of Modi'in, said he did not oppose trips to Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, "but only after a Palestinian state has been established with which we have a peace treaty. Then the children can visit there the way people visit Egypt or Jordan. I oppose holding trips like this under the current situation where there are citizens 'grade b or c' there."

Inbar also said he would consider changing his mind about the visit to Hebron, "if the Palestinians were at least allowed to present their side. But these trips are not innocent. They are intended to strengthen students' relationship to places that, to me at least, it's clear won't remain under Israeli control."

Rafi Getenyo, a father of two from Rishon Letzion, said he saw two problems with the trips.

"The first is security and the second is moral," he said. "I don't think a face of normalcy should be given to the occupation, and that is after all the intent of the organizers of these trips."

Getenyo said he thought the children were being cynically used for political purposes.

"I don't want my children to be taken on apartheid roads, with a jeep in front and a jeep behind, and for them to feel that this is totally normal," he said, referring to a military escort.

Getenyo said his children understood his position, but did not always agree. He said when other parents allow their children to go "with their eyes shut to institutional reasons, that places a bulldozer of pressure on me. They feel different and they don't like it," he said.