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Education for values and for prohibitions - between declarations and deeds

Nidal Othman*

first Published  : 27/04/2016   Last Updated: 27/04/2016 

   

"Beloved is the human being created in the image (of God) - every human being, Jew or Arab."  This is a tweet from Mr. Naftali Bennett last week on Twitter, and he added on Facebook, "Race, religion, color, sexual orientation, political stance have no meaning, they are all human beings."  And in his speech from the same week, he said, "They are all human beings, they have all been created in the image (of God). Every one has a unique soul, a family, a desire to live with dignity."  There is no doubt that these are important words from the mouth of the Minister of Education at a time of raging incitement and racism, but what about actions?  And especially when MK Smotrich, a member of the same faction and party as Mr. Bennett, is the one leading the wild incitement?

The function of the Ministry of Education, in addition to developing schools and institutions, is not to be a "factory" for accomplishments and grades, but rather to develop educational programs for values and to invest in their development and implementation. What could be more appropriate than to take the same tweets from the mouth of the Minister of Education and to invest sufficient resources to develop around them educational programs towards those same values which are the words of the Minister himself?

The approach of education for values is very different from education for prohibitions. In the former approach, one has to invest in inculcating humanistic universal values in children and youth so that they will grow up with values that respect the other and the different and each ones right to human rights, without any connection to ones religious affiliation or ethnic background or various viewpoints, as the Minister expressed so well. In the latter approach, that of education for prohibitions, discouraging punishment is central and here is the place to ask, perhaps naively, whether perhaps in addition to the important expressions of Minister Bennett there should have been an act of punishment (within the party) that would discourage Smotrich and others like him?  This is especially the case when the system of law enforcement, which is supposed to work to prevent racist incitement and to punish it, doesnt do anything of substance in the matter. 

In the Coalition against Racism, as in other organizations, we are working to develop and to implement projects and educational programs for human rights, against racism, and for a shared existence. Certainly there are successes, but we are speaking of a point considering the kind of budget these organizations can raise. In parallel, we have learned that the government in general, and the Ministry of Education in particular, invests very minimally in this area. To be more precise, the budget of the Ministry of Educations department of democracy and shared existence comes to 2 million shekels a year, with the addition of another 1 1/2 million shekels invested in the area through the administration of society and youth. 

Over the last few months, the subject arose at various times during discussions of the Knessets Education Committee, where they pointed out the importance and the rationale that supported the idea that the Ministry of Education dedicate more resources to the department of education for democracy and for a shared existence, some for developing programs and some for facilitating encounters between Jewish and Arab students, secular and religious students, those of Ethiopian background and Russian speakers, students from the periphery and those from the center. There is no end to examples. At this time, when sources in the health establishment continue to respond to the requests of Smotrich family, perhaps the time has come for the Ministry of Education, under the leadership of Minister Bennett, the chair of his party, to succeed in contributing to education in the spirit of the things he spread around last week?  If he does not dare to punish and to discourage the members of his party, then at least he might turn declarations  into deeds embodying values. 

 

* Nidal Othman-Director Coalition against Racism in Israel

Published in Yideot Ahronot, on 27/04/2016