The education system in Israel has suffered a great loss for many years due to integration with the core principles of religion and politics. Education in Israel has been strictly confined within the ethno-national boundaries. The recent political statement of the Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett has only aggravated the existing state of affairs.

The persistent futility of the educational framework in Israel has been proven by the disastrous
performance of the Israeli students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), that evaluates the 10th grade students from different countries in Reading, Maths and Science. It was seen that among the 35 participating OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, the average score of the Israeli students (467 points) was less than the average score of all the international participants. The grave situation of the Israeli education system was better understood when the discrepancy between the highest scorers and the lowest scorers among the Israeli students was analysed.

Naftali Bennett's proposed educational reforms were apparently meant to bridge this wide gap. At the first annual conference for the policy-makers in Humanities that was held at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, Bennett insisted on the amalgamation of the
Jewish and the Zionist values in education, while attempting to incorporate universal values as well. But this made the educational system more religion-bound instead of remodelling it on secular principles. It would be wrong to assume that the consequences of Bennett’s call for reform were purely unintentional. Though quite covert, Bennett’s ulterior motive was to infuse his own parochial Judaism values into the secular educational institutes in Israel. In no way did his reform proposal attempt to address the current educational crisis in Israel. A close inspection reveals that Naftali Bennett is actually trying to ingrain some ultra-orthodox Judaism values he himself garnered throughout his life. He emphasizes on the knowledge on Jewish prayer book alongside a detailed idea of the history of destruction of Jewish temples followed by a fast by the Jews. This is nothing but a cunning attempt at directing the pliant minds of the young students towards Jewish culture, regardless of the quality of education acquired in the process.

A number of analytical studies by different social research groups have unveiled some stark facets of the educational scenario in Israel during the term of Naftali Bennet. The statistics from different sources prove that a sizeable portion (nearly 95%) of the amount collected from the common people in Israel was being funnelled to the labelled Orthodox organisations (like the ones run by the associates of
HaBayit HaYehudi), that actively promoted the inclusion of the Jewish cultural and religious values within the curriculum. On the contrary, the Pluralistic organisations like Zehut and Panim that advocated a more secular perspective of Jewish culture and history were left to survive on less than 5% of the distributed funds. No initiatives were taken on the part of the education ministry to allocate sufficient funds to these organisations. This clarifies the actual intentions of the present education minister.

Substantial evidences have been dug up from the past that prove that Bennett’s actions have always been anti-secular and never served the real purpose of educational reforms. Bennett has recently banned the book titled “Borderlife” from the high-school curriculum. On being questioned on his action, Bennett responded even without reading the entire novel that it portrayed the Israeli soldiers as “sadistic war criminals” and also drew the analogy of the “
Hamas terrorists”. The real reason behind the ban was the depiction of Jewish-Arab love affair in it. This action not only portrayed Naftali Bennett as a manipulative demagogue, but also exposed his inability to keep educational interests ahead of his personal “extreme right” political interests. Although the book has no political content, he used it as a weapon to instigate people against the left. This stands in stark contradiction to Bennett’s intention to “revolutionize” Math, English and Science education.

The instructors in the current educational institutions have openly stated the problems faced by them in imparting knowledge that conformed to their own perceptions as well as the requirements of the predetermined curriculum. The non-secular and non-liberal aspects of the educational structure posed a formidable barrier to imparting a meaningful and
transformative education. But whether Bennett himself wants this kind of “transformative” education is questionable at the moment. A year after Bennett announced the advent of a revolutionary education system in Maths and Science, he shocked the world with his statement- “Studying Judaism and excelling in the subject is more important in my view than the study of Math and Sciences”. Clearly, his proposed educational reform of the combined Jewish and Zionist values is actually aimed at strengthening the Jewish roots within the Israeli educational system.  This was further corroborated by the Education Ministry’s act of granting 1.4 billion shekels to the 60 centers entitled to impart Jewish education in 500 state schools.

Bennett however has proved his political craftiness in targeting the students for his own Jewish-centric religious interests. He foresees the fact that today’s students will be
tomorrow’s voters and will themselves fulfil his dreams of building an orthodox Jewish nation. As many of the popular socio-political groups have rightly pointed out, with the existing secular state-schools becoming financially unstable, Bennett’s approach is insidiously dragging Israel towards an era of Totalitarian rule. 

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