Plan for school trips to Hebron garners praise, ire

"Kids should know more of King David than 'Big Brother,'" Education minister says as he defends plan.

February 17, 2011 03:55
2 minute read.

Tomb of Patriarchs 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Politicians on the Right and Left traded barbs on Wednesday over Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s new plan to bring schoolchildren on field trips to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The point of the tours, Sa’ar said during an Army Radio interview on Wednesday morning, is to emphasize to students a historic connection with a place in which Jews have lived throughout the generations.

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The minister said he wanted the youth to know as much about their history – about King David, for example – as they know about reality television programs Big Brother or Beauty and the Geek.

Questioned about whether the children should also be taught about the problems faced by the Palestinians of Hebron, Sa’ar quickly dismissed the notion, saying it would turn a historical and educational issue into a political one. He added that there would be full security arrangements.

Following Sa’ar’s interview, former education minister Amnon Rubinstein took issue with the idea of taking children to see the Tomb of the Patriarchs without “showing them the price paid by Palestinians in Hebron.”

Rubinstein said it was very bad for an education minister to involve himself in matters such as field trips, and that there were managers and department heads closely engaged with schools and their principals on such issues.

The left-wing organization Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) said it planned on applying for a government contract to lead students on the tours of Hebron, during which it would offer “a more complete picture” of the complex situation in the city.

Former MK and Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery said that “Gideon Sa’ar has ceased to be the minister of education and turned into Israel’s minister of propaganda, aiming to instill an extreme right-wing ideology” into Israel’s school system.

“Every year we hear the heartrending stories of pupils whose parents can’t afford the required fee and therefore can’t participate in school trips with their classmates, and feel ashamed and humiliated,” Avneri continued.

“Instead of helping these cases, Minister Sa’ar is opening the public treasury wide to finance trips that are nothing but a political provocation in the service of the settlers.”

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) congratulated Sa’ar on the initiative.

“The city of Hebron is the first Hebrew city, and the Jewish people have been connected to it for 4,000 years,” Hotovely said. “It is appropriate that every student and citizen of Israel visits Hebron and learns about the legacy of the city of the Patriarchs. The education minister’s move to make Hebron into a site for official visits by the educational system is important.”

According to the plan’s supporters, a number of municipalities have already expressed interest in participating in the pilot program for the visits during the next academic year.

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