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On the Judaisation of education in Jerusalem

January 23, 2019 at 10:14 am

Muslims arrive at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound to perform the Friday prayer in Jerusalem on 26 October 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli government seeks to implement several plans all at once in order to accelerate the Judaisation of Jerusalem, as it continues to surround the city with the Separation Wall and intensive settlement activity. Meanwhile, Israeli institutions, with the support of the Netanyahu government, are trying to achieve absolute control over the Arab education sector in Jerusalem, after controlling about 66 per cent of it by imposing curriculums on Arab primary schools in the city since 1968. Accordingly, the word Palestine has been replaced with Israel and Jerusalem replaced with Urshalim. The Israel education ministry has falsified history and geography in the curriculums taught to the Arabs in Jerusalem. Educational seminars imposed by Israel in Jerusalem refer to Islam as a spiritual education and that the history of Islam is a history of strife and disasters, which in itself is considered a falsification of historical facts.

Israel’s newest plans to Judaise education in Jerusalem was revealed by Israeli media outlets on 19 January. The media reported that beginning from next year, the former mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, will be closing the UNRWA schools in Jerusalem and replacing them schools run by the Zionist Jerusalem municipality. The UNRWA runs the Shu’fat refugee camp, in northern Jerusalem, and it is the only refugee camp in the area inhabited by over 20,000 Palestinians. The agency has five schools in Shu’fat, Sur Baher, Silwan, and Wadi Al-Joz and a medical centre in the city. The number of Palestinian refugees registered with the UNRWA in Jerusalem is about 100,000.

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Jerusalemites are facing the most serious challenge they have faced since 1967, as in addition to shutting down the UNRWA schools in Jerusalem, a number of Israeli officials stated that Arab schools’ receipt of financial assistance from the Israeli education administration, which they are in dire need of, is dependent on their adherence to Israeli curriculums. It is obvious that Netanyahu’s government is carrying out several plans at the same time in order to accelerate the Judasiation of Jerusalem. The curriculums taught to the Arab minority inside the Green Line are being taught in Arab schools in Jerusalem. These curriculums imposed concepts and terms on the students that align with the establishment of the idea of Israel’s Jewishness. In addition to this, there is the possibility of Judaising hundreds of Arab names in the city, which is witnessing rapid settlement activity. There have also been non-stop raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque’s courtyards by settlers, guarded by the Israeli army and police.

Israeli settlers can be sen after they stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on 22 July 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli settlers can be seen after they stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound  in Jerusalem on 22 July 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

It is very clear that Israel is trying to harass and pressure Arab students in Jerusalem in order to force them to leave the city in search of other options for education. This would put them as risk of being expelled from their city according to Israeli laws. It is important to showcase the magnitude of Jerusalemite students’ suffering due to Israeli policies programmed against the education sector throughout the long occupation. There is severe crowding in classrooms and therefore most schools have two shifts. There is also a severe shortage of labs in Arab schools, as well as weak sports facilities and a shortage of teachers. For many years, the Israeli authorities have prohibited any type of renovations or the construction of additional classrooms or schools for Arab students, thus leaving no room for new students given the natural population growth, which is over three per cent per year.

It is worth noting that Arab schools in Jerusalem are not conducive to good teaching due to their age and the lack of necessary renovations and modernisation. It is important to point out that the Israeli education ministry and Jerusalem municipality banned free education for Arab students years ago. This deprives hundreds of Jerusalemite students of educational opportunities every year. The consequences of shutting down UNRWA schools may be very dangerous for Jerusalemites, especially given the absence of a Palestinian and Arab plan to support Jerusalemites. Given the Israeli economic blockade on Jerusalem, the option for Arab students to enrol in private schools is financially impossible. According to the Israeli policies implemented with regards to the education sector, including imposing Israeli curriculums and banning free education, a major shift of Arab students in Jerusalem dropping out of school will emerge.

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According to studies, the drop out rate of Arab students in Jerusalem in secondary school reached 50 per cent in the last decade. We will also be seeing an escalation in forced migration of Palestinian families and students from Jerusalem to the West Bank in search of free education. In the event that Israel shuts down UNRWA schools at the start of the next academic year, this will ultimately lead to preventing them from returning to their areas of residence in Jerusalem under the pretext of Israel’s unjust laws. This includes the excuse that they are residing outside Jerusalem for over a year, which will result in a confiscation of their homes, businesses and real estate under various pretexts, making it the property of the so called Israel Land Authority.

Therefore, there are Israeli purposes behind Judaising education in Jerusalem, beginning with making the Arabs in Jerusalem ignorant and making them a minority of no more than 12 per cent of the city’s total population, including the western part of the city occupied in 1948 and the eastern part occupied in 1967. This is the ultimate goal of Netanyahu’s government in terms of demographics.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 21 January 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.