High school teacher Adam Verete, who was accused by a 12th-grade student earlier this year of “brainwashing” students to adopt “extreme left-wing, anti-Zionist views,” was informed Sunday that the school would not employ him in the coming year — due to budget cuts.
Verete, who teaches philosophy and Jewish thought at Kiryat Tivon’s Ort Greenberg high school, near Haifa, was told the school would be canceling its Jewish thought classes.
Speaking to Army Radio, Verete said he didn’t know if the school’s decision had anything to do with the controversy surrounding his classes. He added, however, that other teachers, among them the director of the school’s Jewish Thought program, had also been dismissed.
The school insisted that the decision was prompted by a shrinking budget, forcing it to cancel classes.
In January, Verete was pressured by the ORT educational network to resign after a student, Sapir Sabah, alleged he had expressed controversial far-left political opinions in the classroom while consistently mocking her own right-wing views.
The matter became public knowledge after Sabah complained about Verete in a letter to Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid), which was later posted on Facebook by former right-wing MK Michael Ben-Ari. In the letter, she accused Verete of brainwashing, indoctrination, and incitement against the state and the Israel Defense Forces.
Sabah said she had chosen leadership as one of her specializations for the matriculation exams, but that she found herself “encountering many difficulties” during classes taught by Verete, one of the teachers in the program.
“Adam makes sure to emphasize his political views during every lesson,” Sabah wrote. “He explains that he’s an extreme leftist, that he believes our state isn’t a Jewish state at all, but belongs to the Palestinians and that we [Jews] shouldn’t be here.”
Sabah said Verete was very outspoken in his criticism of the IDF, even accusing the Israeli army of “extraordinary cruelty and violence” compared to other armies. “He explains that the IDF is completely immoral and that he is ashamed of our country’s army,” she said.
Sabah added that Verete had also recounted that, during a conference abroad, he had shouted “Viva Palestine.”
“When I expressed my opinion and told him I don’t agree with his views, he laughed and said, ‘Killing all the Arabs — that’s what you want,’ ” she wrote. Sabah said that, although she had protested Verete’s characterization of her, he “ignored me and continued to humiliate and hurt me during every lesson, in front of my classmates.”
The controversy prompted the school to investigate the matter and call Verete in for a hearing. At first, the teacher said he was pressured by the board to resign “for my own good and the good of the system.” However, when he agreed to apologize to Sabah and retract some of his statements, mostly about enlistment in the IDF, he was allowed to remain in his post.
A January statement quoted ORT director Zvi Peleg as saying that the network would not tolerate “the expression of extreme personal views by teachers,” but only “a wide representation of all views, expressed in an equal, respectful way,” without ridiculing students whose views run contrary to those of their teacher.
“However, keeping in mind that this was the third altercation between the teacher and student, we have decided to give the teacher a warning to prevent this from recurring,” the statement read.
In January, Haaretz quoted Verete as telling friends that his decision to “turn down the suggestion to resign” stemmed from a commitment to his students that was “far greater” than his commitment to the system. “This is the same system that backs students who slander me, incite against me and try to jeopardize my career,” he said, saying the accusations leveled at him amounted to “political persecution.”
Verete reportedly added that Sabah had called him a “traitor” and said he “should be executed,” and that the education system had taken no action, in response, against the student and her friends, “who joined the smear campaign against me.”
However, once Sabah’s letter was made public, dozens of students came to Verete’s defense, praising him for his exemplary teaching methods and caring demeanor.
To prevent Verete’s dismissal, the students sent a letter to Kiryat Tivon Mayor David Arieli protesting the “negative and anti-Zionist” light in which their school was painted after the letter was publicized.
“Our school has a very high rate of enlistment and pre-military volunteer programs,” read the introduction to the letter, which was signed by 19 of Verete’s students. “It promotes values such as attentiveness, openness and multiple opinions alongside love of our country and state.”
They said the atmosphere during Verete’s lessons was “always open,” encouraging students to voice diverse and even contrasting opinions, “knowing they would be taken attentively, seriously and respectfully.”