Price Tag – the war in classrooms

Religious Zionist education is about peace and fundamental values of human freedom, not wanton violence against innocent people.

Students in classroom 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Students in classroom 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
All “price tag” crimes, and the troubling Tuba Zanghariya incident in particular, are deeply troubling for educators. The claim that schools within the Religious Zionist system may contribute to this phenomenon must be countered clearly, so as not to mislead the public.
The AMIT Network is the educational system’s largest Religious Zionist network with approximately 25,000 students. Our message about respect for the rule of law and for others is unequivocal. We at AMIT not only believe that it is possible to live full lives in a democratic and Jewish state, but also engage in educational activities with the specific aim of teaching respect for those different from ourselves.
We believe and teach that there is no contradiction between being a pious Jew and being a law abiding citizen of the State of Israel, a citizen faithful to the state’s laws, informed with regard to the duties and rights of citizenship, and respectful of the principles of democracy and individual rights.
Citizens in a democracy have the fundamental right to protest government actions. To protest, by legitimate means, can even be considered a citizen’s duty. However, violence is not legitimate in any form. “Price Tag” activities are acts of pure violence and harm the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and each and every student in an AMIT school knows this.
Beyond instilling our philosophy in schools, AMIT runs various educational programs focused on addressing these issues. For example, in Jewish studies lessons we highlight the fundamental value of human freedom: “beloved is all humankind for they were made in the image of God” (Avot, 3:14). AMIT has also established batei midrash(houses of learning) in schools for teachers to learn how to discuss controversial issues in our society with students, based on AMIT’s philosophy and worldview.
This is such a crucial issue in the AMIT network that, following the recent “price tag” incidents, homeroom teachers throughout Israel have been discussing the issues of protest boundaries with their students as part of a comprehensive program on human dignity. In addition, citizenship lessons place great emphasis on the importance of human dignity, a democratic state and obeying the law and accepting the rules of democracy.
In conclusion, this is precisely the time of year, a time of introspection and cheshbon nefesh (soul searching), when educational leaders cannot remain silent. They must express loudly and clearly their stance against “price tag” activities, while educating our youth in the ways of Torah values.
Those who choose to harm innocent people and houses of prayer deserve to be denounced. If there are weeds in the garden of religious Zionism, it is our duty to isolate them, uproot them and prevent ugliness and violence that is foreign to the values of a religious education.

The writer is the director general of the AMIT Network in Israel.