The arbitrariness of borders was brought home to me this past month. My
daughter, and many of her friends, were prevented from registering to retake the
psychometric examination in February because they live in a Negev community
which lies just a few kilometers outside the area defined as the Security
The fact that they, like thousands of others, were
prevented from attending the expensive course for which they had registered when
the city of Beersheba came to a standstill and all public activities were closed
down for the course of the war, or that they too were subject to sirens and
missiles as they travelled from their home community to Beersheba and were
impacted no differently than the many other people living in this region, was
irrelevant to the bureaucrats at the Central Examination Authority
The borders of the security zone had been demarcated prior to the
war, long before the missiles started flying into settlements and communities
well beyond the borders.
Despite requests from the local Municipal
authorities who took up the case of the disappointed students, the Examination
Authority refused to take this into consideration.
Many of these kids
were traumatized by their wartime experiences and were unable to properly focus
or concentrate on the highly pressurized psychometric
Although they have not yet received the examination
results, the war could potentially damage their chances to be accepted as
students at the country’s universities.
No arbitrary line made their
experience any different to those who were on the “right” side (the right side
in this case being the wrong side; closer to the Gaza Strip from where the
missiles were fired), all of whom were quite justifiably offered the right to
immediately re-sit the exam in February under conditions of normality and
Borders, once demarcated and delimited,
automatically include everything (or everyone) within and exclude everything
which lies outside. It is a sharp line of separation and distinction. If you are
on one side, you are included, but if you are on the other side – which may be
only a few meters away, you are excluded.
IN THE light of the advanced
missile technology available to Hamas and Hezbollah, reaching ever further
inside Israel, it is likely that the demarcation of the security zone will now
be reconsidered, modified and expanded. But this does not excuse the absolute
lack of consideration or sympathy on the part of the CEA in its refusal to
consider the legitimate requests of students who were impacted and
True, the experience of residents of these communities was
not as bad or as intense as that of the residents of Beersheba, whose
experience, in turn, was not as bad as that of residents of Sderot and the
region closest to the Gaza Strip. But it is not a good idea for the State of
Israel to start differentiating between the trauma of different people based on
the arbitrary drawing of a boundary.
Perhaps this is not so surprising
given the data which was presented yesterday at a conference held by the
Department of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University to examine the effectiveness
of the welfare authorities in dealing with trauma-affected populations during
the war in the south of the country. It was argued that the authorities have
failed to provide adequate care for some of the weaker populations of the region
during normal times, and it is therefore not surprising that they were unable to
deal with the added trauma of wartime situations.
policy of the CEA has also raised new questions concerning the overall efficacy
of the psychometric examinations, a problem which has been the subject of much
discussion in recent years.
Israeli university students are accepted on
the basis of their combined psychometric and bagrut (matriculation) results.
Over the years, it has become obvious that the psychometric examinations have
little relationship to the ability of students to succeed in his/her university
The universities have thus been considering replacing these
exams with a new set of acceptance procedures, but the economic and political
lobby of those intent on maintaining the existing system has proved too strong
for any serious change to be undertaken.
There are major differences of
opinion among university administrators concerning the degree to which the
psychometric tests are useful tools in determining the suitability of new
students and their ability to successfully finish their degree courses at
For some, they are no more than aptitude tests which are
based on learning the tricks and the techniques, rather than a real test of
intelligence and knowledge. They have also become a test against time as
students are taught to answer different types of questions within narrow time
frameworks and under intense pressure.
They are definitely not tests
which allow a student to think their way through answers, or develop a reasoned
argument to questions which require analytical skills beyond binary and absolute
answers – yes or no, right or wrong, black or white. For the social sciences and
the humanities, we require proof of general intelligence, not just informational
skills. We seek students for whom the ability to reason is as important as
THE ARBITRARY decision by the CEA to automatically
adhere to an administrative boundary which was clearly out of synch with the
realities of the recent war is part of the same pattern of thinking which does
not allow for reasoning or adaptation. It is anti-intellectual and needs to
undergo through revision. Continuing with these aptitude tests in their present
form will simply churn out a generation of unthinking robots, who are very good
at answering quizzes, but who lack the basic skills of an educated
Meanwhile, a large group of young Israelis, recently
finished with their army service and preparing themselves for the next stage in
life, have been significantly affected by the trauma of war, without being
offered any recourse or sympathy by the state authorities.
Many of them
used their time during the war to volunteer in the communities most affected,
assisting in the kindergartens and schools, or generally contributing time which
would otherwise have been used for studying, in contributing to the collective
good. They surely are deserving of a better response from the CEA.
writer is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion
University. The views expressed are his alone.