Israel’s contentious nation-state law will be included in the national high school civics curriculum for the upcoming academic year, and will be one of the compulsory topics in the matriculation exam for graduating seniors, Channel 13 reported Thursday.
“Students will internalize the vision for the country, which includes Israel being the state of the Jewish people,” the Education Ministry said in its directive, according to the TV report.
The passage of the quasi-constitutional nation-state law last year enshrined Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people, drawing protests from Druze and Arab minorities who said the legislation created official discrimination between Jews and non-Jews.
According to the report, teachers were told the topic could trigger “emotional difficulties” among students in certain communities.
Students will study the text of the law itself as well as the debate surrounding the legislation and read arguments for and against it.
Newly appointed Education Minister Rafi Peretz told Channel 13 in response that studying the law was important.
“I think it’s very important that the education system teach the national law that demonstrates our historical right as a sovereign people and constitutes a legal basis for the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he said in a statement.
The nation-state law — which for the first time enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — sparked widespread criticism from Israel’s minorities and opposition, the international community, and Jewish groups abroad.
Critics argue that the legislation passed by the Knesset last July contravenes the basis of Israel’s legal system, as well as its Declaration of Independence, by enshrining inequality among its citizens.
It prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze minority, whose members — many of whom serve in the army — say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.
A group of Druze Israelis have filed a petition to the High Court of Justice seeking to have the law overturned, arguing it “creates race-based discrimination, excluding 20 percent of the nation’s citizenry and creating castes among Israeli citizens.” Along with the Druze petition, Arab and Bedouin leaders, rights groups, academics and opposition parties have also asked the court to strike down the law.
Last August, 50,000 people attended a Druze-led rally in Tel Aviv protesting the law, including top military and security officials. A similar, Arab-led rally against the law in Tel Aviv a week later drew 30,000 protesters.
The Netanyahu government maintains the law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in existing legislation.