Israel's Ministry of Education is to fund school trips to the occupied West Bank, the latest entrenchment of a religious right-wing agenda in the Israeli curriculum.
Other locations include Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim – two hills which encircle Nablus – and Tel Shiloh, near the illegal Shiloh settlement off Route 60.
Until now Israeli students were forbidden from entering these sites due to their location in occupied territory. However, the Ministry of Education has now overturned this ban and will instruct the Israeli army to accompany the students, Arutz Sheva explained, citing a report by Israel's Channel 13 yesterday.
Though the trips are not compulsory, the ministry will incentivise the trips by making them fully funded, the Israeli daily added.
Peace Now – an Israeli NGO which monitors Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank – slammed the decision, saying that "the Ministry of Education should not be the information arm of the Yesha Council [a powerful umbrella organisation for settlement councils] and the messianic right."
The organisation also took aim at Minister of Education Rafi Peretz, saying: "We will not let Rafi Peretz brainwash our kids! Declare that you will not send your children to lend a hand to the occupation."
The move will be seen as the latest evidence of Peretz's attempt to entrench a religious right-wing agenda in the Israeli school system. Since he was appointed education minister in June – itself a temporary appointment until Israel's holds its do-over election on 17 September – Peretz has undertaken a number of controversial reforms.
Earlier this month, Peretz announced that the Nation-State Law – which last year declared Israel the "national home of the Jewish people" and effectively demoted Israel's some 1.8 million Palestinians to second-class citizens – would be added to the school curriculum starting this academic year.
In announcing the change, Peretz said that the Nation-State Law "illustrates our historical right as a sovereign people and constitutes a legal basis for the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and [therefore] should be taught in the education system."
In June, barely ten days after his appointment, it emerged that Peretz was mulling forcing Palestinian schools to fly the Israeli flag. Although Israeli legislation dating back to 1997 already compels all educational institutions to fly the Israeli flag on their school building, the law has not been strictly enforced for Arab-Israeli and ultra-Orthodox schools.
Peretz said he "want[s] to see the Israeli flag flying above all of us. It is all of ours and will fly above all of us," vowing to enforce the law and scrap exemptions.
There is a strong chance that Peretz will be reappointed education minister following the 17 September election should incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerge victorious. Peretz is currently placed second on the Yamina slate after the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP) merged with Ayelet Shaked's New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) party.
Yamina is currently predicted to win 12 seats, meaning it will form an integral part of any right-wing coalition and will thus have vast bargaining power during coalition talks and the distribution of ministries.
Party leader Shaked is expected to push to regain her former position as justice minister, raising concerns about the effect of Yamina's right-wing agenda on the judiciary, school system and ultimately Israel's policy towards the occupied West Bank.