View of the Jerusalem forest.
(photo credit: SHARON UDASIN)
The Tel Aviv Municipality has decided to cancel or reroute school trips to the capital.
Over the next week, seventh- and eighth-graders in Tel Aviv schools were set to travel to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City and to Ammunition Hill.
Police say both area are safe.
Following the deadly attack by an Arab man at the Jerusalem Light Rail station adjacent to Ammunition Hill on Wednesday, however, the Tel Aviv Municipality’s educational board postponed some trips and rerouted others so that they avoid the two sites.
“Due to the security situation in Jerusalem, we received notice from the Municipality of Tel Aviv, the initiator and organizer of the tours, to cancel the trip scheduled for Tuesday,” a statement sent to parents of seventh-graders in a Tel Aviv schools read. “We have not yet been informed if there will be a trip later in the year when things calm down.”
Defending the decision, Adi Adari, a member of a parents council in Tel Aviv, told Army Radio on Sunday morning, “It is not right to send hundreds of school kids on trips at a time when the security situation in Jerusalem is shaky.”
Jerusalem District police spokesman Asi Aharoni, meanwhile, assured Adari and other concerned parents that the capital – including the Western Wall Plaza and Ammunition Hill – were completely safe and there was no reason to cancel the trips.
“We have enlisted an additional 1,000 police officers in and around Jerusalem to keep things under control,” said Aharoni. “Visitors to Jerusalem need not be concerned for their safety.”
Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria criticized the decision of the Tel Aviv Municipality on her Facebook page and noted that the Jerusalem Municipality, like the police, saw no reason to cancel the outings.
“Your decision to cancel the students’ trips to Jerusalem is outrageous,” Azaria wrote. “Tomorrow morning, like every morning, hundreds of thousands of children in Jerusalem will go to kindergarten, and to school, as usual. And if we and our kids can maintain our routine, then your kids can also continue their trips to Jerusalem as usual.”
Parents in Tel Aviv understandably do not wish to expose their children to unnecessary risks. We empathize with their concerns. But at the same time other considerations should be taken into account.
First, the Tel Aviv Municipality’s decision undermines the trust that we should have in law enforcement and local government. Both the Israel Police and the Jerusalem Municipality have assured parents from Tel Aviv that the capital is safe. Yet, Tel Aviv officials – either under pressure from parents or on their own – have chosen to disregard this.
Second, as Azaria pointed out, maintaining routine is perhaps the best response to terrorism. Parents in Tel Aviv had an opportunity to show solidarity with parents in Jerusalem who continue to send their children on trips to the Western Wall and Ammunition Hill, in accordance, of course, with police recommendations and security directives. Instead, they sent a completely different message, as though Tel Aviv’s parents were shaking off a shared responsibility to confront the bullying tactics of the rioters in Jerusalem by insisting on living our lives.
Third, Tel Aviv’s schoolchildren end up being presented with a distorted picture of Jerusalem. Instead of being introduced to the profound Jewish history of the Old City and visiting important sites such as Ammunition Hill where an important battle took place in 1967 to secure control over Jerusalem, they are given the impression that the capital is something to be afraid of.
And finally, this move could be very damaging to tourism. If Israelis shun the capital what will visitors from abroad do? It is not too late. The Tel Aviv Municipality can reconsider.
Individual parents have the right to decide not to send their children on a trip to Jerusalem. But municipal officials should refrain from making a sweeping decision that undermines trust in our hardworking police officers, hurts the solidarity that should exist between residents of Jerusalem and Israelis living outside the capital, presents a distorted picture of Jerusalem to Tel Aviv schoolchildren and hurts tourism.