This is the story of an all too rare, but oh-so-important, triumph of the Israeli educational curricula in Jerusalem that may defray a tide of Arab hatred.
Eastern Jerusalem has 98,428 students, of whom 45,500 attend some 146 schools that utilize the Palestinian Authority’s learning material, known as Al-Tawjeehiis – the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination in Jordan and the PA. To sit for the exam, students are required to finish 2 years of pre-school education, 10 years of basic education, and 2 years of secondary academic or vocational education. Exam subjects include Arabic, English, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Civil Studies, and Islamic studies (unless the student is Christian). Those who pass with a good mark may apply to universities in Jordan or the PA.
There are also 52,928 students in private schools in eastern Jerusalem that have chosen to teach the curricula created by the Israeli Education Ministry, and take the state-wide Bagrut exams (matriculation).
Some of the students and teachers come to these schools from the neighborhoods around Jerusalem: 1,366 students and 888 teachers enter Jerusalem through security checkpoints.
For the past six months, the Education Department of the Jerusalem Municipality has been working together with the Education Ministry to transfer the education system in eastern Jerusalem from Palestinian to Israeli curricula.
This school year, five schools in eastern Jerusalem have joined the Municipal Education Department and the Israeli Education Ministry and will be teaching Israeli Bagrut- instead of Tawjihi-oriented material.
Not surprisingly, this transition received a lot of criticism from influential figures in eastern Jerusalem. Organizations such as the Faisal Al Husseini Foundation have been used by the Palestinian Authority to reverse the changes.
The Palestinian Ministers Committee criticized the move and requested that parents push back. In addition, the teachers’ committee was documented distributing free Palestinian books to students at the entrance to the Al-Brahmiyeh school on the Mount of Olives.
The objectors have released articles aimed at convincing parents to refrain from sending their children to schools teaching Israeli content. They claim that Israel has invested NIS 875 million ($260 million) to turn schools in Jerusalem “Israeli,” and that 80% of Palestinian schools have already surrendered to Israeli pressure. Another article refers to the Jerusalem Municipality’s abandonment of the schools that chose to teach the Israeli curricula.
They are not entirely wrong: the Education Department of the Jerusalem Municipality and the Education Ministry established a five-year plan that included increasing the education budget for eastern Jerusalem schools to NIS 875 million. The last time their budget was raised was in 2018.
The Head of the Arab Research division in the Im Tirtzu Movement, Elias Zarina, has labored extensively over the past year to expose incitement in eastern Jerusalem Schools.
Elias said: “We realized that the influence of the PA’s learning material leads to incitement against the State of Israel. In addition, we discovered extracurricular activities such as mock funerals of Jihadists, calls against the State of Israel and its symbols, and recognizing terrorists in prisons as heroes. We also found brainwashing through drawings: for example, a map of Israel where the name Palestine replaces the name Israe, and the Golan Heights are marked as part of Syria. Also: kids draw pictures of terrorists. These schools have become incubators for raising terrorists.”
“It all starts with education,” he continued, “And this step is welcome. It should have been done long ago.”