Don't Want Your Kids Taught by an Arab? Yes, That's Racist

Haaretz Editorial
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A classroom in Tel Aviv, February.
A classroom in Tel Aviv, February.Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

While Iyad Shalabi’s inspiring gold medal win Wednesday at the Paralympics in Tokyo was greeted with applause by politicians and in general, it seems that the awful truth about integrating Jews and Arabs is found thousands of kilometers from there, in Herzliya’s Nof Yam school, where parents of children going into second grade vehemently objected to the principal’s courageous decision to give the class an Arab homeroom teacher. All this, even though it was clarified that a different teacher would teach Hebrew and Torah, and that the Arab teacher would not teach material dealing with the Jewish holidays, for example.

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“This isn’t racism, it’s a permitted distinction,” one of the parents told Haaretz. It seems that he himself suffers from an education deficient in values and also history, since he apparently had never heard that the “separate but equal” doctrine was struck down decades ago in the United States. He and other parents at Nof Yam have no problem with Arab teachers, as long as they stay far away from their children. And if there’s no choice, let them focus on teaching only “kosher” subjects. Math, for example, is fine. But to be a homeroom teacher? That’s just too much.

According to the parents, appointing an Arab homeroom teacher contradicts the goals of state education as they appear in the law, including “educating to Jewish and Zionist values and the unique values of our tradition in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” But the law includes other goals that get less attention, from “educate to love humanity” to "develop respect for human rights, basic freedoms, democratic values … and to educate to seek peace and tolerance in relationships between people and nations.” The goals of state education even include recognizing “the unique language, culture, history, heritage and tradition of the Arab population … and to recognize the equal rights of all Israeli citizens.”

One parent, with cowardly anonymity, expressed concern that the teacher won’t stand for the siren on Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, or on Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We have the right to ask her whether she’ll be silent during the sirens,” he said. “Or will we have to wait for the sirens to find this out? If I tell my child to stand and he replies, ‘But the teacher doesn’t stand,’ what will I tell him?”

Here’s a suggestion for this worried father: Tell your son the truth. If the teacher doesn’t stand for the siren, the students will be exposed to the fact that Israel is a complex country with civic dilemmas. They will benefit from this lesson for the rest of their lives. Or, in the words of the Education Law, they will be strengthening their, “power of judgment and critique, intellectual curiosity and independent thinking.”

After the harsh wave of violence in May that highlighted the sensitivity in the relationships between Jews and Arabs in this country, one should praise the principal for taking this step, support her, and hope the parents sober up.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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