A new curriculum for the study of Jerusalem, prepared at the initiative of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, ignores the city’s Arab-Palestinian population of more than 250,000, according a report by Army Radio on Monday.
According to Army Radio, which obtained a draft of the 60-page curriculum, the fact that a third of the capital’s population is Arab is mentioned only once, while the word “Arabs” is mentioned only a handful of times.
The word “Palestinian” is omitted altogether.
Earlier this year, Bennett announced that next year’s theme for the education system will be “United Jerusalem.”
Each year, the Education Ministry chooses a new theme for the school year; for the 2013/14 academic year, it was “Meaningful Learning,” and this year’s theme is “The other is I.”
“I am proud to announce that on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem [in 2017], next year the school system will dedicate the year to our united capital,” Bennett wrote recently on his Facebook page.
The new program aims to incorporate curricula on Jerusalem in various subjects, including history, language, geography, civics, literature, Bible and Israel studies.
As part of the theme, Bennett announced that pupils from across the country will visit Jerusalem on field trips, and tour numerous sites, including the Old City, the Knesset, the Supreme Court and memorial sites.
Army Radio reported that the curriculum mentions Jerusalem’s holiness for Christians and Muslims in only a fraction of the subjects.
“Even in Arabic studies, teachers were asked to teach at the level of ‘basic introduction’ only on ‘Islam and its connection to Jerusalem,’” Army Radio reported.
In addition, the curriculum dedicates only a short mention of the issue of the conflict over Jerusalem for high school students, and makes no mention of the issue otherwise.
“So what Jerusalem does the Education Ministry try to describe through the new curriculum? In one example, Jerusalem, as portrayed in the program, appears in one chapter representing a ‘human mosaic of the city’ by getting to know the neighborhoods that represent the people living there,” Army Radio reported.
The neighborhoods represented included Mishkenot Sha’ananim – the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City; Rehavia; the Bukharan Quarter; and ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim. No mention of any Arab neighborhoods.
The Army Radio report added that, in this section, the curriculum stated that, “It is important to note, the selected neighborhoods represent the diversity of identities in Jerusalem.”
The radio report also added that, in the curriculum, 5th and 6th graders are encouraged to continue learning about the Temple on the Internet site www.HarHakodesh.co.il, which organizes visits to the Temple Mount according to Halacha.
The curriculum is to be launched on Jerusalem Day, which falls on June 5.
An Education Ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the Army Radio report was incomplete, as it was privy only to a segment of the report.
According to the Education Ministry, there is an entire section of the curriculum devoted to the diversity and multiculturalism of Jerusalem which has not been released.
“In the drafts that were prepared recently, it was noted that the curriculum will be titled ‘Jerusalem, a city that has been united, which is a symbol of coexistence of all religions, Jewish, Muslim and Christians,’” the spokesman said.
In the draft, it is emphasized that there will be three pillars of the program.
The third pillar, that is a third of the entire curriculum, deals with the ‘human, social and multi-cultural mosaic.’ As part of this pillar, all neighborhoods in the city will be addressed, and Jerusalem as a holy city for the three religions.
The ministry also quoted a statement from the curriculum which said: “Jerusalem is the third holiest city to Islam. More than a third of the city’s residents are Arab Muslims and hence the importance of familiarity with Jerusalem from the Arab and Muslim aspect.”
The ministry added that as part of the Jerusalem Day events there will be joint discussions with Jewish and Arab students “under the message of unity and tolerance.”