JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hundreds of Israeli teachers have sent a letter to Israel’s education minister opposing school trips to Hebron.
The trips are part of an Education Ministry program to take students on “heritage tours” in the West Bank city.
The 260 teachers who signed the letter Sunday called the program, launched in Jerusalem schools last year and opened last month to schools throughout the country, “a manipulative use of pupils and teachers, who will be forced to become political pawns,” according to Haaretz.
The program is not compulsory. Some 2,000 secular and 1,000 religious high school students have visited the Cave of the Patriarchs, according to Haaretz.
The Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial place of the Jewish forefathers and foremothers, is located in Hebron; the site is also holy to Muslims. Hebron is home to more than 160,000 Palestinians and 500 Jews.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Israel Radio Monday that the letter had only been sent to Haaretz and not to him, and that “it’s to the discredit of the education system that this [school trips to Hebron] hasn’t happened in the last 40 years.”
Last week, a Hebron school trip was canceled after students from a Jerusalem high school were prohibited by security forces from touring Hebron with a group of former Israeli soldiers from the Breaking the Silence organization, which offers a pro-Palestinian view of Hebron.
“By using the national education system, you wish to strengthen and perpetuate the Jewish settlements in these areas,” the teachers’ letter said. “To this end, the reality in Hebron is presented in a partial and tendentious manner. Concealing the political reality is a political action.”