Grapevine: Time for school

Before the opening of schools, President Shimon Peres went from one extreme to the other, visiting classrooms from first grade to university.

Children on first day of school 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Children on first day of school 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
IT’S PAR for the course for the president and prime minister to visit schools on the opening day of the new academic year, but both engaged in education activities on Sunday as well.
On the day prior to the opening of schools, President Shimon Peres went from one extreme to the other, namely from first grade to university. Peres and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar co-hosted 120 Jewish and Arab first graders, and gave them some tips about the importance of study, good behavior and settling differences through talk and not violence. Peres, who is a voracious reader, also stressed the importance of reading books.
Almost immediately afterwards, he went to the Hebrew University for the official opening of the Asian Science Camp, attended by some 220 of Asia’s brightest science students in the 17-to-21 age group. Peres told them that Israel, which is now known worldwide as the “Start-Up Nation,” is the place to dare, to study, to imagine and to accomplish.
Not all the students are from Asia proper. There are some from Australia and New Zealand as well as from Georgia and Armenia, and even from Abu Dhabi. The Israeli group in the camp, which includes Israeli Arabs, is the largest, just ahead of the Chinese. There are 35 people in the Israeli group, 34 in the Chinese and 33 in the Indian, while delegations from other countries are much smaller.
Peres told the camp participants that their presence in Israel “provides us with a glimpse of a new world based on science, a world that will come quicker than many expect.” This global world, he said, is based on cooperation of brilliant individuals, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion.
ON MONDAY Peres went to the Negev not just for the opening of the school year, but for the inauguration of the Sha’ar Hanegev High School. It is the first school in Israel to be protected against rocket fire and has 1,200 students.
Early that day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Szold School in Jerusalem’s Hagdud Ha’ivri Street, which he had attended as a small boy. He was enthusiastically received by the current crop of first graders as well as by Sa’ar and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. The mayor surprised him by presenting him with his second-grade report card, which he had found in the city archives. Netanyahu, who has previously proved his ability to get along with young children, was in top form as he checked out how many of them already know the alphabet, or at least a few letters.
Netanyahu then went on to Efrat, where he encountered a demonstration mounted by Women in Green led by Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, both of whom have been frequently arrested for protesting against government policy.
The prime minister noted that this was a historic day for Israel, in that it marked the beginning of free education and equal opportunity from age three. He also said that Efrat and Gush Etzion were integral to the State of Israel and greater Jerusalem. Four new kindergartens were opened in Efrat on Monday, signifying that the area is making a substantial contribution to national demographics.
FOR PRIZE-WINNING radio journalist Eitam Lachover, the first two days of this week were arguably the busiest of his entire year. Lachover anchored a special extended broadcast on Reshet Bet on Sunday, in which he spoke to school principals, new teachers, veteran teachers, students and their parents about schools, curricula, education philosophies and a myriad of other related subjects. On Monday, he was an early bird at the Education Ministry’s situation room, where experts received complaints and answered questions about everything and anything to do with the opening of the new school year.
One of the people that Lachover interviewed on Sunday was Aliza Bloch, the principal of the Branco Weiss Comprehensive School in Beit Shemesh, whose 1,200-strong student body reflects the city’s diverse social fabric. A tradition at her school, said Bloch, is the annual meeting of parents, students and teachers on the day before school opens – in which all three groups sign a contract to do everything possible to enable each student to reach his or her maximum potential.
Some students learn better in small groups, others in large groups and some one on one, explained Bloch, who said that provisions are made for all of them to learn in the manner that suits them best, and that the results speak for themselves.
The school’s motto is “Think, innovate, educate.” One of its strategies is to organize field trips to parts of the country that are pertinent to the Bible studies of any particular class. This makes the lesson more interesting, and makes the Bible come alive.