Tuesday, September 4, 2007

MKs Miller, Orlev Sock it to Education Minister Tamir


Yeah, they really "socked it to her" didn't they? After all, she is still in office, still arrogant, and still capable of doing much more damage.

Words mean nothing. Knesset panels do nothing. We need her out of office, and anything short of that is failure.

by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Tuesday's special mid-recess Knesset session was called not only to deal with the Olmert government's planned concessions, but also with the apparent anti-religious and anti-Zionist policies of Education Minister Yuli Tamir of the Labor Party.

Only three Knesset Members spoke: MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), who blamed Tamir for trying to impose her left-wing ideology on Israel's educational system; Russian immigrant MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), who spoke from the heart about the importance of Jewish values in winning wars; and a rebuttal by Minister Tamir.

MK Orlev opened by saying that he and his colleagues had asked for the special session "because of Minister Tamir's recent decisions: to cut, by 50%, the amount of post-high school National Service girls placed in organizations dealing with strengthening Jewish identity in public schools, and also to prevent public religious school graduates from teaching Judaism and Zionism."

With 100 National Service girls in the visitors' gallery, Orlev said these decisions are in line with Tamir's approach of making "decisions based on her ideology, even more so than her left-wing predecessors such as Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni, and Amnon Rubenstein... For instance, she recently gave the order to ensure that school textbook maps show the pre-1967 borders that separated Judea, Samaria and Gaza from the rest of Israel." Orlev said this was in opposition to an Israeli government decision - "proposed by a Labor party minister," he noted - shortly after the Six Day War.

Minister Tamir also recently approved adding the Arab version of Israel's War of Independence - namely, that it was a "nakba," or "tragedy" - to Arab schoolbooks. Specifically, she approved a Grade 3 textbook "Living Together in Israel," which was written by Arabs who left their homes during the 1948 War of Independence and claim that Israel took their land. "The Arab narrative deserves to be told in Israel," Tamir explained at the time.

Orlev, a former Director-General of the Education Ministry, called upon Prime Minister Olmert at the time to fire Tamir for making an "anti-Zionist decision that erases Jewish history and denies the State of Israel as a Jewish state."

"And this most recent political decision," Orlev told the Knesset, "is a grave one. It has nothing to do with the curriculum; Minister Tamir well knows that National Service girls are not replacing teachers, but are just part of an enrichment program, beyond the regular school schedule."

Orlev emphasized that no replacement was found for the girls to teach values of Judaism. "In addition," he said, "the Education Minister knows that there are not enough Jewish studies teachers even inside the public school system curriculum - yet here too she is cutting. This, despite our ongoing shock at the tremendous ignorance in Jewish studies among our students..."

Law States that Torah Must be Taught
"This issue is an existential issue for our country," Orlev said. "It cannot be that the Minister of Education, a member of the government, is not aware of the very goals of public education. Seven years ago, the Knesset Education Committee decided that the 'principles in the Declaration of Independence and the values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state' must be instilled. How can these values be instilled if teaching jobs such as these are cut and Judaism can't be taught? Also history of the Land, and the Torah of Israel, and the like - these are all in the law, requiring the Minister of Education to do everything possible to instill these values."

"Who gives you the right to censure principals and schools who are interested in these girls?" Orlev asked Tamir from the Knesset podium. "The principals in 700 [secular] schools want them to teach Judaism in their schools. Shulamit Aloni also tried to stop this, but the principals refused to let her, and so she backtracked."

Within the Coalition
Orlev concluded by saying that he expects the religious and nationalist-camp ministers, such as Ze'ev Boim and the members of Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, to make their position known as well.

Alex Miller Speaks from the Heart
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) also spoke out against Tamir's policies. In the thick Russian accent of one who immigrated to Israel just 15 years ago, he expressed the hope that values such as love of the Land of Israel and Jewish culture would continue to be taught:

Much has been said about the last war. Its final results will become clear only later, but what's clear is that any war that breaks the national spirit is not a victory...

When soldiers enlist in the army, they learn combat skills and the like - but from where will they get their spirit? What type of spirit can they have if their educational system teaches them about the Naqba and draws the Green Line as a legitimate border? It appears that the Minister of Education wants to be the Palestinian Minister of Education, and is forgetting that her job is to teach Zionism to our youth and to help them forge their Jewish identity...

Your job, Mrs. Education Minister, is to restore Jewish pride and strength to the nation. You must imprint a Jewish stamp of values from the kindergartens and all the way through junior high school and even beyond. It's not an easy mission, but one that is no less important than achieving good grades and report cards. [Referring to the bravery shown by soldiers in the past war:] To save lives, it is not necessary to be a medical student; sometimes it's enough just to be a top student in Zionism.

Minister's Rebuttal
Minister Tamir, a founding member of the extreme left-wing Peace Now organization, did not deny that the issue was one of ideology: "MK Orlev, you won't teach me Zionism and Judaism! I'm just as Jewish as you are! The argument here is just that you want the hegemony, you want more money. We are in favor of pluralism, and we say that everyone can vie for a piece of the cake..." She said that she plans to hold a public tender in which Reform or humanist Jews will also be able to teach Judaism.

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