netanyahu with shfaram pupils.
(photo credit: GPO)
As children across the country shuffled back into classrooms on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was busy touring a number of schools, beginning in Modi'in and ending in the north of the country, where he welcomed pupils back after the summer break and encouraged them to strengthen their connection to the Land of Israel.
"During my visit to Berlin last week, I witnessed first hand the price we paid for being helpless," the prime minister said at Kibbutz Sde Eliahu, referring to the architectural plans for the Auschwitz death camp, including detailed blueprints for the camp's barracks, delousing facilities and gas chambers, which he obtained during his trip.
"But we returned to our homeland," Netanyahu continued. "And we are obligated to strengthen our hold on the land and preserve our independence."
The prime minister told the pupils that one way to do this was through education.
"We advocate education that stresses values, Zionism and a love of the land, and that is what you are learning here," he said.
Speaking to pupils earlier in the day in Modi'in, Netanyahu was asked by one of the children if he had been excited about being elected prime minister. "Yes, but not as much as the last time," Netanyahu said, smiling, "because [this time] I knew what was waiting for me."
Later in the day, the prime minister arrived in the northern Arab town of Shfaram, where he spoke to students at a high school, saying he would work to clamp down on violence during the new school year.
"We all want peace, mostly within our own our own communities," Netanyahu said. "Therefore, we must put a stop to violence."
Netanyahu, who was visibly sweating from the heat, told pupils: "You should study in comfortable conditions," adding, "and there should be air conditioning here, for God's sake!"
"One of the things that will happen following my visit here is that an air conditioner will be installed," he pledged.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, however, Netanyahu's policies were the subject of criticism, as Samarian Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika toured a national-religious elementary school in Yakir, near Karnei Shomron, with National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu).
Explaining to Landau that the school system in Samaria had grown by six percent in the last year - five times more than the national average - Mesika complained that the "freezing policies" of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had not changed under Netanyahu's administration, and that students were running out of classroom space.
"It seems that there are efforts to make life difficult in the Samaria," Landau replied. "And a civilized and cultured country, which is concerned about human rights, cannot accept these kinds of [construction] freezes."