Only one week separated Jabotinsky Day, which commemorates the vision, legacy and work of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, from the decision of the education minister to exclude the founder of the Revisionist movement in Zionism from the list of 100 personages studied at Israeli schools. Three years separated the passing of the Jabotinsky Law (2005) and erasure of his philosophy from local textbooks.
A rationale for this bizarre decision was provided by the chairwoman of the Education Ministry's Pedagogic Secretariat, Prof. Anat Zohar: Instead of studying specific figures, schools will teach certain fundamental texts, which will broaden horizons and encourage independent thinking.
For a moment, one might have imagined that the higher-ups in the Education Ministry were guided by lofty ideas. But decisions made there in recent years suggest that what is presented as educational principle is really a matter of leaving one's political mark - or perhaps even of taking political vengeance.
Four years after she helped lead the process of amending the Flag Law (1997) as communications minister, former education minister Limor Livnat made it mandatory for Israeli educational institutions to put a national flag on prominent display. Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) institutions recognized by the ministry are exempt from this. When Yuli Tamir became education minister, she brought the 1967 borders (the "Green Line") back into textbooks, from which they had evaporated.
The importance of these decisions renders their political aroma less distinct: Each of them touches on the conceptual foundations of Israel's establishment, its history and its geopolitical location in the Middle East.
However, there is no evident reason for the decision to exclude Jabotinsky from the curriculum. Livnat brought it in and Tamir is taking it out, a moment before a more right-wing, more nationalist minister is appointed in her place. The next change will not be made for another two or three years, a hiatus during which no Revisionist thinker will be able to corrupt the minds of Israel's students.
Even if he is "expelled" from the curriculum, no one can take away from Jabotinsky his central place as an important contributor to the narrative of the Zionist movement. The expulsion itself is yet more evidence of the shallowness that guides the decisions of Israel's top education officials.
The ease with which recent education ministers decided to include or exclude curricular materials is a symptom of what Israeliness has become: Nothing matters except who has the last word, and who speaks it the most loudly. If the students make enough noise, maybe they'll even be excused from studying the Bible and Bialik, because the Education Ministry is not afraid of making populist concessions. Livnat undercut the teachers' authority when she gave students their own bill of rights, and Tamir waived the need for universal education when she granted Haredi schools an exemption from the state's core curriculum.
Perhaps this is the Education Ministry's way of teaching post-modernism: Everything is important, and nothing is important. When they embark on their adult lives, students will remember the message. They will allow themselves to scorn any tradition or tenet that is not their own and to promote only their narrow interests. To reflect on the society in which they live, on principles, on a culture of debate and disagreement - that will not be part of their educational legacy.
Left-Wing Ed. Min. Responds: I Didn't Touch Jabotinsky
(IsraelNN.com) Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the grandson of the famous Revisionist ideologue of the same name who inspired Menachem Begin and the formation of the Likud party, charges that Education Minister Yuli Tamir has removed the study of his grandfather's philosophy from Israeli school curricula.
MK Gideon Saar (Likud) says that Tamir - a founder of the radical left-wing organization Peace Now - "is a post-Zionist who consistently fights against Jewish and Zionist values." Left-wing commentator Dan Margalit went one better, saying on Army Radio that Tamir is a "post-Zionist, if not an anti-Zionist."
Tamir replaced the education program "100 Jewish, Zionist and Democratic Concepts," instituted by then-Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) in 2003, with a new one called "Jewish Culture." The new program relies less on by-heart learning, according to an Education Ministry spokeswoman, and more on in-depth learning.
...Tamir's new program took most of these concepts and incorporated them into other aspects of the school curricula. Jabotinsky says, however, that his grandfather's teachings were effectively removed altogether.
The Education Ministry says that Jabotinsky will continue to be taught in Israeli high schools, and that the Jewish Culture program gives even more emphasis to Jewish topics than Livnat's program did...