New secularist party shoots for uniform education

Party founder: External peace cannot be achieved until there is internal peace in Israeli society.

Cute school kid 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Cute school kid 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Secularist author Yaron Yadan formed a new party last week called Or, which aims to eliminate the separate educational systems and initiate uniform education for the nation's children. Yadan convened the party's founders on Friday at Tel Aviv's Basel Hotel. He said the date and the location were chosen for their symbolism, because Basel, Switzerland, was the site of the First Zionist Congress in 1897, and because Friday was July 4, America's Independence Day. "The situation in Israel is an anomaly," Yadan said. "There are four educational streams for secular, national-religious, haredim and Arabs. The streams are not similar, and they each teach different values that denigrate the others. A country cannot survive if its education system puts its citizens against one another instead of highlighting what we have in common." Or also supports a universal draft, but only after the educational system has been universalized to give haredim and Israeli Arabs a Zionist education that would make them fit in with the army. While much of Or's platform on equality, humanism and separating religion and state sounds similar to the ideas of the former Shinui Party, Yadan insisted his party would be different. "I don't think we are like Shinui, because we deal with civil issues and not the haredim," Yadan said. "The founders of this country wanted it to be based on humanist ethics and loving people no matter what their religion, race and gender. We want the country to return to that vision." The party's founders include several professors and well-known cultural figures, including playwright Yehoshua Sobol, artist Yair Garboz, illustrator and cartoonist Danny Kerman and David Volach, the formerly haredi director of the internationally acclaimed film My Father, My Lord (marketed as Hufshat Kayitz in Israel). Like Volach, Yadan was once a haredi rabbi. He was born to a secular family in Tiberias but became religious as a teenager, and in 12 years in the haredi world, had seven children and rose to become a rosh kollel (the head of a yeshiva for married men). Yadan describes himself as an expert on Jewish law. He formed an organization and wrote a book that will soon be published in English that both question Orthodox Judaism and highlight the ways in which it clashes with modern ethics. The party submitted a request to the party registrar on June 11. It will hold an event in which its platform will be written more in depth next month and another in which teachers will be invited to discuss the party's ideas on education. Asked for his party's outlook on matters of war and peace, Yadan said, "External peace cannot be achieved until there is internal peace in Israeli society."