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Three weeks after the publication of a petition calling on Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to take action against racism spreading within schools and the general public, teachers told Ynet about the harsh reality they are forced to face daily.
In one case, a 12th grade student of a northern Israeli school wrote “Death to the Arabs” on a test in civics class. In another case, a high school student from Tel Aviv stood up during class, and to the horror of his teacher declared that his dream is to volunteer for the Border Guard, “so that I can spray Arabs to death.” His friends welcomed the announcement with applause.
Moreover, civics teachers around the country have been finding graffiti on the walls of their classrooms, bearing slogans ranging from “Kahane was right” to “A good Arab is a dead Arab.” Other statements incite against the ultra-Orthodox sector and against refugees.
According to an Education Ministry source, the recent incidents reflect an escalation in racism among Israeli students. He primarily blamed politicians for encouraging hatred.
“We’re not talking about a minority, or children from families that have extreme political views, but about normal children who are afflicted with ignorance,” he said. “The political discourse in recent years has given them the legitimacy to be prejudiced.”
The source also noted that the student who wrote “Death to Arabs” on his test is an honors student who is proficient in the material – a fact that raises a red flag.
He said the school in question dealt with the student in an uncompromising manner and the student did express deep regret for his actions. Regardless, the source asserted that it was not just an isolated practical joke but a trend widespread among Israel‘s youth.
A civics teacher from central Israel said she is constantly faced with racism emanating from the behavior of her pupils.
“When we have a discussion in class about equal rights, the class immediately gets out of control,” she said. “The students attack us, the teachers, for being leftist and anti-Semitic, and say that all the Arab citizens who want to destroy Israel should be transferred.”
She noted that expressions of hatred increase especially when she discusses the Kfar Kassem massacre, namely the significance of the “Clearly Illegal Order,” a military command that is expressly against the law and should not be obeyed.
“It’s very sad, but the students justify the massacre and say, ‘A good Arab is a dead Arab,'” she said. “Often students who want to speak on behalf of human rights are either scared to do it because of the reactions of their friends, or apologetically clarify they don’t like Arabs.”
Myriam Darmoni-Sharvit, who heads the civics faculty at the Center for Educational Technology, often hears her colleagues complaining that the situation in the classrooms has become unbearable.
“The teachers are truly despaired, they are exhausted, and some of them feel that mentally, dealing with the students is difficult,” she said. “When they are in the classroom, they feel like they are in a battlefield, which is why they often act to ‘survive’ and choose to skip chapters or teach the material through dry dictation in order to keep the calm.”
The Education Ministry said in response that teachers should convey to the students the difference between a disagreement or a dispute and between hatred, stereotyping and the deligitimization of humanity.
The ministry also stressed that the education system’s goal is “to raise a generation free of racist attitudes, which is able to manage social tension and disagreement in a manner that respects the values of Judaism and democracy, on which our State is founded.”