By the age of five, Iris Halperin-Peleg knew she wanted to be teacher. The
Rishon Lezion native, who lit the sixth torch together with her city’s Mayor Dov
Tzur at the ceremony marking Israel’s 65th Independence Day on Mount Herzl
Monday night, recalls writing on her walls at home pretending to be a teacher in
front of her class.
“It was really a normal childhood,” says
Halperin-Peleg, 46, whose mother worked for the Rishon Lezion Municipality and
father worked in construction, in an interview Monday on her way to
For the last 19 years, Halperin-Peleg has been the principal
of Rishon Lezion’s Haviv School, considered to be Israel’s first elementary
school with all of its classes taught in Hebrew. She has worked in education for
24 years, as an Arabic teacher and school counselor at Haviv and
Halperin-Peleg says she is proud of the school’s legacy of
absorbing immigrants and revitalizing the Hebrew language in the modern state.
The father of the contemporary Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, taught at
the school and wrote its curriculum 127 years ago, when it was founded in
The second Jewish farm settlement, Rishon Lezion was established
during the First Aliya in 1882.
“Until today, we keep our heritage,” she
says of Haviv’s commitment to Hebrew language and instruction.
being only 28 when she became the school’s principal, Halperin-Peleg says that
she wasn’t nervous about taking on the responsibility.
“It was really
complex,” she says. “I have had many years to understand the depth of the role,
the meaning of it and what is required of me.”
The Ministerial Committee
for Ceremonies and Icons chose for this year’s ceremony the theme of national
legacy and the preservation of the state’s cultural assets for future
As one of the 14 lighters of the 12 ceremonial torches,
Halperin-Peleg represents the tradition of Hebrew education and the revival of
the Hebrew language. It was her parents, she says, who instilled this love of
learning in her.
Her father, a seventh-generation Israeli from a
Jerusalemite family, and her mother, born in Israel to parents who fled the
Holocaust from Poland, wanted Halperin-Peleg and her sister to receive the best
“What was important to them was that we be educated
people,” she says. “That we would have all the conditions to study and to
advance. They were educators... not teachers, but actual educators.”