Shasha-Biton holds 'emergency' conference for Israeli education's future

The conference addressed the fact that ultra-conservative Maoz in his coalition agreement with the Likud got control over a branch in the Education Ministry.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visits at the opening of the new school year in a school for ultra orthodox jewish boys, in Beit Shemesh, August 28, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visits at the opening of the new school year in a school for ultra orthodox jewish boys, in Beit Shemesh, August 28, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Outgoing Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton hosted an "emergency conference" in the Knesset on Tuesday against the "yard sale" of the education system, with a number of ministers, Knesset members and mayors in attendance.

The conference addressed the fact that ultra-conservative MK Avi Maoz in his coalition agreement with the Likud secured control over the branch in the Education Ministry that presides over the "basket" of external programs that are offered to principals and teachers.

Speakers included Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Shasha-Biton, Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper, Housing Minister Ze'ev Elkin and others.

Speakers also included some Likud politicians, including Ramat Gan mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen.

Lapid said the Education Ministry was being broken up into parts due to the "extortion" of prime minister-elect and Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu's negotiating partners. He gave as examples the fact that responsibility for the religious-Zionist education system had been moved to the Religious Zionist Party, that the external education programs were given to Noam's MK Avi Maoz, and that the Israel Association of Community Centers had been promised to Shas' MK Aryeh Deri.

  Noam Party leader MK Avi Maoz, December 5, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Noam Party leader MK Avi Maoz, December 5, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

"Netanyahu is so weak, so dependent on them, that whoever wanted something immediately received it. Nothing is untouchable in their eyes – not the IDF, not the rule of law and not the education of the children of Israel," Lapid said.

The outgoing prime minister bemoaned the fact that no one in the upcoming coalition expressed interest in becoming education minister, or said that "it was their dream to educate the children of Israel, to fashion their future."

Gantz said that "what we are seeing is instead of pluralism, which strengthens Israel's resilience, we are receiving extremism." Gantz accused Maoz of being an "anti-educational figure" and said that the teachers and municipal leaders had a serious responsibility over what enters their children's schools.

Chopping up of the education system

Gantz compared what he called the "chopping up" of the education ministry to that of the defense ministry, and argued that this was a "very problematic" situation.

"Netanyahu thinks that he will dismantle and rule – he will dismantle and will not rule. There is no chance that he will be able to rule with this series of dismantling. The citizens of Israel are worthy of services and governance," Gantz said. He concluded by calling on Netanyahu to stop the "damage."

Shasha-Biton claimed that Maoz was "motivated by radical ideology" and wanted to "ruin the public school system from within." She accused Netanyahu of "abandoning" the education of Israel's children in favor of a "cannibalization" of the education ministry.

The outgoing education minister debunked the claim that she had taken Bible study out of the curriculum, explaining that she had passed a reform that changed the format of the matriculation exam but in a way that did not affect the number of hours of study. She further accused the incoming coalition of spreading lies for months on this issue.

"Netanyahu put their education in the hands of people who think that the role of women is merely to bear children and raise them, who equate homosexuality and pedophilia, and a man who states that he only wants a Jewish, not democratic, state," Shasha-Biton accused.

"So how can we give such a person plans for gender equality, women's rights, minority rights, that deal with tolerance, accepting the other and sexual education?" she asked.

MK Shlomo Karhi of the Likud also spoke at the conference, and attacked its hosts. Karhi claimed that history was repeating itself, as "2,200 years ago Antiochus and his colleagues sat and planned how to make the people of Israel forget the Torah. They had enormous funding from foreign progressive funds and focused on a number of key issues" that were intended on "cancelling the holidays" and barring circumcision.

Karhi claimed that today the same was happening. He repeated the misleading claim that the Bible and and Jewish heritage had been taken out of the curriculum, and accused the government of entering "anti-Zionist" content via foreign organizations.

"The heroic spirit that defeated the progressive spirit 2,220 years ago, won this time also. More bible, more Jewish history, more Jewish identity. That is what the people choose, and with God's help that is what will be," Karhi said.

In addition to the conference, both Labor and Yesh Atid announced on Tuesday that politicians from their parties would join protests at bridges across the country on Friday and Saturday. Yesh Atid circulated a digital flyer about the protests with the slogan, "Stopping the Insanity, Saving the Country."