The Education Ministry has instructed teachers across the country to put an emphasis on Zionism during the upcoming school year. Schools have been mandated to focus on Israel's national anthem and symbols in order to instill Jewish and democratic values in students.
As part of the initiative, kindergarteners are to be introduced to the Israeli flag and the menorah, and are to sing the anthem on public holidays. Elementary and high school students are to learn about Zionist icons and prominent events that shaped the national symbols during civics and history classes; furthermore, they are to study about the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
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Avi Midan, the principal of Tel Aviv's Holtz High School, welcomed the Education Ministry's move, even though he noted that schools have long been required to teach the highlighted content.
Schools to teach about Zionist leaders. Ben-Gurion (Photo: AFP)
"The Israeli people are divided on many issues, but the national symbols and the sense of belonging unite us," he said.
Midan said that the high school staff hangs posters of national leaders in the courtyard each year, and concludes each school function with the anthem "in order to familiarize the students with their history and teach them that the state was built on much blood and tears, and that nothing should be taken for granted."
Aliza Bloch, the principal at Branco Weiss High School in Beit Shemesh, added that creating a common Israeli identity is one of the education system's primary roles.
"In order to make kids want to enlist in the army when they get their first draft summons at age 17, we must start teaching them about social solidarity in kindergarten," she said. "Even kids must be familiar with the state and its symbols, and not only through history class but also through music and travel."
Professor Asher Cohen, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University who also heads the Education Ministry's Civics Committee, said that the role of Israel's symbols is to express a contexture of feelings that generate group identity and social cohesiveness.
"When the students learn the anthem's lyrics and are exposed to the longing for the Land of Israel, it creates a kind of a unity that puts an emphasis on the common national values and not on the division of the people," he said.
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