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Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar
(Photo: Ido Erez)
Students, teachers debate Hebron trips
'I want to enjoy myself, not feel like I'm in a war,' student says of school trips to Cave of Patriarchs

A plan by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to acquaint students with Hebron and the Cave of Patriarchs has hit a snag with a number of children and educators, some of whom are opposed, and not only for political reasons.

 

"Without even considering the political aspects, I don't think it's practical to take kids on a trip to Hebron," a school principal told Ynet Wednesday.

 

"Just the ride over there requires secure buses, and I refuse to take on myself the responsibility of placing my students at risk. We must remember that Hebron and the Cave Patriarchs are at the heart of political controversy, and educational programs must remain within the consensus."

 

But Dr. Asaf Metzkin, who teaches Social Studies at a school in central Israel, believes that the trips will be a positive addition to the school program "as long as the goal is educational and not the promotion of a political agenda".

 

He added that the students must be exposed to both sides of the issue during the tour. "I mean questions that touch upon both the occupation and Israeli heritage," he said.

 

"Social Studies are also about getting to know reality and pluralism of ideas. I believe that those who oppose such trips are burying their heads in the sand, because whether we like it or not this land is part of the State of Israel and only by knowing reality as it is can we expose students to pluralism."

 

The chairman of the National Student Council, Asher Alon, said it was important for students to get to know Israel and its heritage sites. "It should be just the same as visiting the Western Wall," he said, adding that the tour could raise grades in bible and Jewish studies. However, Alon said, the tours must be secure as it could become dangerous.

 

'Trips will create rift between students'

But Yotam Berger, a high school student and member of Peace Now's youth group, opposes the plan. He and his friends have even written a petition against it and are collecting signatures.

 

"We think it is very important to discuss Jewish values, but it must be done through joint lessons for Jews and Arabs. It should not be done through total disregard for the Palestinian public and the harming of democracy," Berger said.

 

"Just as religious students are not made to drive on Saturday, students must not be forced to visit a place in which democracy does not exist and a military force occupies a civilian population. The education minister's initiative reeks of politics and is intended to promote a right-wing agenda," the petition says.

 

Other students were also opposed, saying the plan could create a rift between students who would otherwise be friends. "Bottom line, instead of students learning about Jewish heritage they will be going on a 'rightist' trip and all those who go will be considered right-wing supporters," an eleventh grader said.

 

Another student, of the twelfth grade, said she didn't care much for politics. "But, as a student, I want to enjoy the trip and not feel as though I'm in a war," she added.

 

 

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