School year to open with classes teaching tolerance

School year to open with classes teaching tolerance

After summer bloodied by racist and homophobic terror, students to spend first week of studies on accepting difference, eschewing violence

Illustrative photo of Israeli children in a classroom. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli children in a classroom. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Education Ministry announced Thursday it would devote the first week of the coming school year, which begins September 1 in most districts, to a lesson plan on violence, racism and tolerance.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett decided to devote the first days of school to the subject after a summer marked by bloody terror attacks and racist rhetoric, including the murder of a Palestinian toddler and father in a West Bank terror attack likely perpetrated by Jewish extremists and the murder of a teenager at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade.

“In a country like ours, tolerance is not a luxury. It is a precondition for our existence,” Bennett said in a Thursday statement.

“This year one student will not return to her studies because she was murdered for the act of identifying and marching with her friends at the Pride Parade. We can’t ignore that. To disagree is permitted and even desired. To raise a hand – never,” Bennett said.

The ministry published a curriculum for the week’s classes (Hebrew link) on its website, focusing on discussions about prejudice, incitement and violence, and the importance of accepting difference. It was written with the summer’s violence in mind, officials said.

The curriculum also includes materials for use throughout the year in courses ranging from literature to citizenship, language and history, and for relevant commemoration days throughout the year, including the International Day of Tolerance (November 16), International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) and others.

The violence “makes us responsible as educators who lionize ethics, love of humanity and liberty to act in every way we can to prevent the spread of this spirit of hate and destruction,” ministry director general Michal Cohen wrote in a summer memo to school principals.

“The education system is responsible for acting to correct these social sicknesses, and to instill our sacred values – the protection of human dignity and liberty, morality and justice, love of humanity and mutual responsibility.”

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