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Can Israel separate politics, education?

Parents and educators are concerned about Education Minister Naftali Bennett integrating values of Judaism and nationalism into the education system, at the expense of tolerance and dialogue.
Israeli elementary school students stand near the entrance to a bomb shelter during a nationwide emergency drill simulating a rocket attack, in Jerusalem June 2, 2015.  Israel launched a five-day annual home front defence exercise on Sunday, preparing soldiers and civilians for missile attacks. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun  - RTR4YGUV
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In recent months, it has been hard to keep up with the recurring reports on changes in the Israeli education system. It began last June with a decision by Education Minister Naftali Bennett to remove the play “A Parallel Time,” performed by the Haifa Al-Midan Theater, from the “culture basket,” the list of performances made available to schoolchildren, because it is based, so he explained, on the story of a Palestinian terrorist. His decision ran contrary to the opinion of a committee of professionals that determined that the play should go into the basket, as it did not encourage terrorism. Later, Dorit Rabinyan’s novel “Borderlife” was excluded from the advanced literature curriculum of high schools on the grounds that it encourages assimilation. What's more, the ministry ordered a freeze on funding of bodies teaching pluralistic Judaism in schools. In addition, teachers claim that the list of concepts each student of civics is required to master has been updated, with a clear preference for concepts emphasizing Jewish nationalism over those highlighting the state's democratic character.

On Feb. 17, Education Ministry officials were reportedly quoted as contending that Bennett intended to appoint a new committee on civic studies consisting for the most part of right-wingers. This follows the public uproar sparked earlier this year over the ministry’s biased revision of the high school civics textbook. While the current version has been under revision for several years now, debate on the issue becomes increasingly heated each time a new minister is appointed.

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