The Gush Etzion settlement bloc will forever remain a part of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday during a visit to an elementary school in Efrat.

Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar attended a ceremony at the Aseh Hayil elementary school on the first day of the new school year.

“Efrat and Gush Etzion are an integral, elementary and evident part of Greater Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “They are the southern gates of Jerusalem and will always be part of the State of Israel. We are building Efrat and Gush Etzion with enthusiasm, faith and responsibility; thus we are also building education.”

Efrat geographically lies within the Gush Etzion bloc but is governed by a separate regional council. Both regions are beyond the Green Line and are not claimed by Israel as sovereign territory. It is widely believed that Israel would seek to annex the major settlement blocs as part of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

‘In sixth grade, Netanyahu was hardworking, a fast learner, kind, courteous, responsible and punctual’

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu visited his alma mater, the Szold School in Jerusalem.

“Fifty-six years ago, I came to this school, to this building,” he told the first-graders at the school. “There were huts. We were welcomed very nicely and I was very, very excited. I knew, I think, fewer letters than you.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat then handed Netanyahu a copy of his sixth-grade report card, which he had found in the city’s archives.

According to Netanyahu’s old teacher, Ruth Rubinstein, the future prime minister was “in his studies: hardworking, a fast learner, active; with his family: kind, courteous, helpful to parents and reading; in his course work: responsible, exact and punctual.”

When Barkat read the report card to the first-graders, Netanyahu seemed surprised. “Really?” he asked.

“That’s what’s written here,” Barkat said, to which Netanyahu responded: “That has changed.”

In the South, President Shimon Peres visited the Shaar Hanegev high school, amid a second straight day of sporadic rocket fire on the region. The school was among the first in the country to be protected from rocket attacks.

“Out of all the places I could be, this is the place I most want to open the school year — where there is amazing fortitude in the face of the rocket threat,” Peres said.

Forever young. President Shimon Peres welcomes students on their first day of school, Monday (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

Forever young. President Shimon Peres welcomes students on their first day of school, Monday (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)