The Education Ministry’s decision not to allow Dorit Rabinyan’s “Borderlife” to be taught in Israeli high schools was a pathetic one. The reasons given by senior ministry officials to justify their veto had little, if any, connection to education in the accepted sense of enabling students to acquire a better, and generally more complex, understanding of reality. Under Education Minister Naftali Bennett, these goals evidently aren’t at the top of the ministry’s agenda, or even at the bottom.
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Both the head of literature studies in state schools and the curriculum advisory committee recommended that “Borderlife” be included as an optional work in the highest-level literature classes, known as the five-unit level. But Dalia Fenig, the acting chairwoman of the Education Ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, rejected this recommendation.
Fenig’s reasons are nothing more than euphemisms for ugly racism. It’s hard to believe a senior Education Ministry official would use arguments like “preserving the nation’s identity,” “the significance of assimilation” and “intimate relations ... between Jews and non-Jews are seen by large segments of society as a threat to their separate identities.”
These statements, and the swift backing they received from Bennett, are yet another milestone on the road of nationalist indoctrination down which the heads of the Education Ministry are marching students in the state school system. Additional milestones include revising the civics textbook to emphasize the subject’s “Jewish dimensions,” bolstering centers for deepening Jewish identity at secular state schools and expanding programs such as Masa Yisraeli (“Israeli Journey”), operated by the Mibereshit organization.
Bennett and his minions are turning the Education Ministry into the Jewish Identity Administration. They are subordinating the secular public to their political goals and trying to turn secular students into religious Zionists. Israel has a large community of people who aspire to democratic and liberal values and who seek to end the racist, nationalist subjugation dictated to them by the government.
But even if the education minister backtracks and rescinds his shameful veto of “Borderlife,” it won’t be enough. The silence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proves that the entire government, with all its various branches, is sending Israel into the abyss of darkness and racism.