Arab pupil exempted from Torah lessons

A Tel Aviv school district official said it was 'very strange' that the Balfour School had acceded to the parents' request.

The administration of Tel Aviv's Balfour Elementary School has agreed to exempt an Arab pupil from Torah study at her parents' request, Yediot Tel Aviv has reported. "We are anti-religion," the girl's mother explained. "[Our] children don't need to hear about a religion that's not even theirs in school… We sent our children to this school because it's in central Tel Aviv and it's convenient for us." Furthermore, according to the mother, the school had cut back on Arabic language lessons and added more lesson time for Torah study. "I don't mind that they teach them grammar, Hebrew, and geography - my kids even celebrate the Jewish holidays. We don't mind that, but not Torah." Generally, Arab pupils in state schools are required to study the same subjects for the same number of hours as the school's Jewish pupils, including Torah. A Tel Aviv school district official said that Arab children in Jewish schools must study all the subjects in the school's curriculum, and said it was "very strange" that the Balfour School had acceded to the parents' request to exempt their daughter from Torah lessons. The same official added, "As an educator in Israel, I would see that Arab children study Torah, but on the other hand I would include an introduction to Islam so that schools would express cultural diversity." The Education Ministry said in response that after contacting the school, the pupil in question had not been exempted from Torah study, and that her teacher reported that the girl was present in class. However, according to Yediot Tel Aviv, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality has confirmed the exemption. "The request of an Arab pupil's parents to exempt her from Torah lessons was approved by the school administration," the city said.