Politicians call for education against violence

President Peres, disturbed by Jerusalem attack on Jamal Julani, says display of racism is a "national failure."

August 23, 2012 01:16
4 minute read.
Shimon Peres

Simon Peres. (photo credit: Wikicommons)

Politicians on the Left and Right called for schools to educate against violence and racism at the annual Holon Education Conference on Wednesday.

President Shimon Peres, delivering the opening address, pointed to increasing incidents of violence and racism as proof of failure by educators to convey the most important human values in the classroom.

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Profoundly disturbed by the near-fatal gang beating last week of 17-year-old Jamal Julani in the capital, Peres saw this raw display of racism as a national failure.

It was incumbent on everyone to teach those values that were almost being forgotten, he said. “The state is dear to us. The land is important, but the human being is no less important.”

Peres referred to a survey published on Tuesday in which the majority of Jewish students in Israel said that they did not want to live alongside Arab citizens.

The survey cast a negative light on the values of tolerance and love of fellow being, and was a poor reflection of what was being taught, he said.

“This must change!” he insisted, and emphasized the importance of investing more in education so that the children of today will be the decent adults of tomorrow.

Israel cannot afford to ignore the values that guided its pioneers and to fail to impart them in its children, he said.

Peres rejected lack of financial resources as an excuse for deficient education. Israel always lacked resources, he said, and therefore the most important resource was education, because education teaches values and provides the tools that enable young people to reach their potential.

Conscious of the economic crisis that is threatening to overtake Israel, the president advised his audience not to invest in banks, but rather in children.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that humanist values were central to Judaism, and the attack on the Arab boy was serious in terms of both violence and racism.

Sa’ar announced plans to increase funding for youth movements, which he said “have an important role in society. Strengthening youth movements is the answer to a more egalitarian and less violent society.”

The government was investing in education for every age, and the budget had increased in every part of his ministry, Sa’ar said. Teachers’ salaries have gone up in recent years, and their average pay is higher than the market average, which the education minister said would help guarantee quality and long-term improvements.

Sa’ar added that an increase in the defense budget could not come through cuts in spending on education because, “at the end of the day soldiers who went through our schools are sitting in our planes and tanks.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin participated in a panel discussion, in which he was asked how youth could be discouraged from violence and racism when members of Knesset set the opposite example, such as MK Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu), who threw water at Arab MK Ghaleb Majadele (Labor) in January.

“MKs who do things like that to Arab MKs are as a passing shadow, and will not be in the next Knesset,” Rivlin responded, saying Michaeli’s behavior was unacceptable.

Former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said that problematic national and personal situations can lead to social issues, and that fear is often translated into violence toward the weaker sectors in society. In Israel’s case, she said, that is the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, work migrants and immigrants.

“The lynch in Jerusalem, in which children almost killed a man just because he is Arab, is part of a phenomenon that comes from increasingly extremist nationalism,” Livni said. “Hundreds of citizens of the State of Israel, of which I am so proud, stood and watched silently.”

Livni commended Sa’ar for instructing teachers to discuss the issues on the first day of school next Monday, but said it is not enough, because 40 percent of Israeli schoolchildren do not attend state schools.

“This should be an issue that crosses ideologies,” Livni said. “It does not matter how it is explained – whether it’s against democratic values, or for haredim that it is against the values of Judaism. The problem is that there is not one direction [for all schools] that will be the basis of our life here. We cannot depend on the goodwill of principals who do not accept the state’s authority, its values or its institutions.”

Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino discussed the importance of preventative measures in fighting crime, saying the police force’s job is not only to catch criminals, but to find the motives and reasons behind the crimes.

“It is not enough to enforce [the law], there must be prevention, a way to find young people at the beginning of their moral downfall and the path to crime, and pull them out of this violent cycle,” the police chief said.

In reference to the attack on Julani in Jerusalem, Danino said such an event is very serious, and should not take place in a democratic country.

Danino described a program to discourage young criminals called Milah, an acronym for “The State of Israel for Youth.” Anyone who completes Milah will be allowed to enlist in the IDF and his criminal record will be expunged.

According to Danino, the program is a great success, and he hopes that within a year, the number of Milah graduates will be double what it is today.

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