It's the beginning of a new school year in Israel, with an entirely new kind of classroom experience -- one where Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are for the first time studying Israeli textbooks -- the Washington Post website reports today (September 15, 2013). East Jerusalem is sought by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
In other cities, this might just be viewed as a bureaucratic tweaking of educational priorities. But in East Jerusalem, the switch to Israeli course work -- with its emphasis on Hebrew language and Israeli history -- may well have incendiary consequences.
Israeli officials say that by offering an alternative to an antiquated Jordanian curriculum overseen by the Palestinian Authority, they are trying to do right by students by helping them succeed as citizens in a polyglot, knowledge-based economy. But the new curriculum has been branded by Palestinian officials in Ramallah -- the administrative center of the West Bank -- as a bullying tactic by an occupying power seeking to brainwash their young charges.
"The teachers have had many threats over the past week, and they are having many problems," said Lara Mubarichi, Jerusalem's deputy director of education for East Jerusalem. "In one school, there were 300 parents who signed up, and now it has gone down to 86," she said. "In another school, all the parents pulled out."