Sixteen young Jews in the United Kingdom are running a campaign to urge British Jewish groups to include the Green Line on maps of Israel.
“The idea of the campaign is that all the Jewish organizations — synagogues, youth groups and Jewish day schools — will use maps that show the Green Line when they teach about Israel," said Amos Schonfield, a 22-year-old student at the University of Leeds and one of the founders of the campaign. "The goal is to improve education and make it honest. The best way to teach about Israel is with the facts, and the Green Line is a fact. If we do not show it, we are not teaching facts, but opinions. We are trying to change the way we educate.”
The group, called Sign on the Green Line, has collected more than 330 signatures on its open letter to members of the British Jewish community, which is available on its website (signonthegreenline.org) and Facebook page. The young British Jews behind it are all graduates of Zionist youth groups and say in the letter that using maps that show the Green Line is "a simple and important move that will make sure that our community is having an honest and well-informed discussion about Israel."
“Core to our strongly felt connection to Israel, is proper education about the country," the letter says. "Maps are a key part of this education and we put up maps of Israel everywhere. They impact our consciousness and affect how we view the land and the conflict. But many of the maps the British Jewish community uses are wrong. They show the West Bank and Gaza as being no different to the rest of Israel, which is incorrect. Israel has never annexed the West Bank or Gaza and does not view the territory as having the same status to the rest of Israel.”
Schonfield, who has studied at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and has a British father and Israeli mother, says he and his peers have gotten quite a few negative responses.
“Most of the people who give us negative feedback accuse us of doing things we are not trying to do," he said. "They say we want to determine Israel’s permanent borders, for example, when what we want is to show that the situation is complex. Israel has a certain reality, and that reality can’t be ignored.”
The group disavows the movement to boycott Israel.
“We are against boycotts of Israel," said Schonfield. "We want to promote good education about Israel, and we have no desire to boycott it. We are all members of Zionist movements. Many of us have visited Israel and studied there for periods of several months.”
There has also been controversy in Israel surrounding the use of maps and textbooks in schools that show the Green Line clearly, an issue that has a lot to do with the party to which the education minister belongs. Seven years ago, then-Education Minister Yuli Tamir of the Labor Party ordered the Green Line restored to Israeli classrooms, but it has since been removed from geography and history textbooks.
In the open letter, Schonfield and his peers urge prospective critics not to dismiss them as naive.
“Do not shake us off as being naive or political," the letter states. "The choice to ignore the Green Line is a political choice. The 1996 Education Act demands that schools provide a ‘secure and balanced treatment of political issues’. Putting the Green Line on a map does exactly that. The Green Line is not a final status border agreement; it is an acknowledgement of the reality of Israel today. It is the place where we start now, and from where we will go from to search for peace. We are the future leaders of your community and we are having an honest, well-informed discussion about Israel. Will you join us?”
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