Politicians visited schools all over Israel to wish children good luck on the first day of the new school year Monday, with many going to towns near the Gaza border.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke to first- and second-graders in the Sha’ar Hanegev Elementary School, sitting in a circle with the children and asking them how they managed during Operation Protective Edge.
“I’m excited to see you today. This was a very difficult summer. It isn’t simple and shouldn’t be taken for granted, so this is very heartwarming. I came to say, good for you and good luck,” Lapid said at the school-year opening ceremony.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett visited a technological high school in Ashdod and commended the students for learning professions that will help the country.
Bennett said he knows the teens had a difficult summer, and expressed support for them and hoped to motivate them.
“We need people who know how to work, not just lawyers and business school graduates. You are in the right place,” he said.
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri visited a high school in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council area, answering 11th and 12th grade students’ questions about Operation Protective Edge and its aftermath.
“You who will enlist in the army in the coming years are the generation of rebirth. We are the old generation that built the state, and now your mission is to protect what we built, our state’s security and its values,” he told them.
Peri wished the students and faculty a quiet year.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited first graders in Efrat and high school students in Ma’aleh Adumim.
“I found charming children and teens who are happy and motivated and learning values and mutual responsibility,” Edelstein later wrote on Facebook.
“I praised them and told them they are an important force in our united nation, especially after the difficult days we faced this summer.”
Edelstein added: “Wishing everyone a good, successful school year, and, of course, that it be as routine as possible!” All three Bayit Yehudi ministers visited schools in the West Bank.
Not far from Edelstein in Efrat, Bennett spoke to students at the Mekor Haim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, the high school that two of the three teens who were kidnapped and murdered in Gush Etzion in June attended.
“Until two months ago, you were a ‘regular’ yeshiva, but now you are leaders. You all have an additional weight on your shoulders. You are the yeshiva of all of the people of Israel,” Bennett said.
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel and Pensioners’ Affairs Minister Uri Orbach visited a new mixed, religious-secular high school in Kfar Adumim, where Ariel lives.
“Dare to dream,” Ariel told the new school’s students.
“The mixed elementary school in this town founded 30 years ago was part of a dream, and this high school is another part of it.”
Ariel said it was touching to see different parts of the Israeli population together in one school and expressed hope that many more people would follow this model.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) visited Jewish schools in Shoham and Ramle, and an Arab school in Kafr Kassem.
Herzog emphasized the need to fight racism in speaking with the students.
“This summer, a dangerous Pandora’s Box was opened that undermines the foundations of our life together in this land. If we do not quickly take care of this through education and law enforcement, it can be dangerous to all of us,” he said.
The Labor leader did not miss the opportunity to bring up politics, adding: “Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the prime minister talk about the topic, but I heard other ministers fanning the flames for political gain.”
Herzog also expressed disappointment that the government is cutting the education budget, saying Israel is far behind most OECD countries in the amount it invests per student and that the gap will only increase.
Also Monday, Knesset Education, Culture, and Sport Committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) and MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) visited a national-religious high school and a secular high school in Lod.
The MKs were supposed to visit an Arab elementary school, but its faculty was on strike.
Mitzna said it is clear the Lod Municipality invests in education and promised his committee would help in any way possible.
“The Education Committee put shrinking the gap between the center and the periphery at the head of its priorities, and the City of Lod is like the periphery [socioeconomically],” Mitzna said.
Calderon said “this proves once again that our greatest resource is human. We saw wonderful students and teachers full of vision dealing with a city in which Jews, Arabs, new immigrants and old, secular and religious people live side by side. This is Zionism!”