Yesterday, 1st of September, was the beginning of the Israeli school year, and it is a very exciting, almost festive day – not just because parents (and grandparents!) are glad to hand their offspring back to the tender care of the educational system, but because education is genuinely prized in Israel, as fitting for a Jewish state.
To get an idea of the numbers: over 2 million children went back to school yesterday. This is almost 4 times the number of Israel’s original population back when the state was founded!
More than 2 million children and teenagers — 2,194,931, to be precise — headed out to kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools Tuesday morning, as the 2015-16 school year began, the Education Ministry said.
The number of students in school represents a 2.29 percent rise over the previous school year, according to a statement from the ministry. The number of children in preschools — almost 317,000 — has risen by 3.43% over last year. One hundred and fifty-seven thousand, four hundred and seventy-seven children began first grade on Thursday, while 118,721 entered their 12th and last year of school. They will study in 68,271 classrooms in 4,714 schools across the country, under the guidance of 166,208 teachers and other education professionals.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett was very excited for his daughter who began 1st grade:
Bennett on Tuesday told Israel Radio that his daughter Avigail was “very excited about being so big, and going into first grade.”
He was also proud of a reform still in the works to increase the number of teachers and reduce the number of pupils per class. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said, “that she was supposed to be in a class of 37 kids and now will study in a class of 28 children.
“Today Israel’s children are entering an education system that is more personal and more humanist,” the minister said.
A program to boost math studies aims to double the number of teachers teaching five matriculation units of math as opposed to four (in the Israeli system each unit signifies a level of studies, with five units in any given subject being the highest) from the current 1,000 to 2,000 within five years. Additionally, Bennett wants to add 15,000 hours of math studies countrywide.
I wish all the children of Israel (literally!) much success in their studies in the new school year, and I wish lots of success and strength to all the teachers too.
One of our granddaughters began Kita Aleph (1st grade) yesterday and I went to the community of Peduel to watch the “Shalom Kita Aleph” ceremony, in which the older children welcome the newcomers with song and dance. The ceremony was attended by no lesser a personage than President Rivlin himself. Rivlin attended in part because Peduel has absorbed 10 French immigrant families who arrived over the summer, and their children began their Israeli school careers yesterday too.
Here are all the children of kita aleph entering the playground after the President had made his entrance (our granddaughter is almost at the end):
The funniest thing for me was that the announcements were both in Hebrew and in French (to accommodate the new Olim), making the whole event sound like a miniature version of the Eurovisiosn song contest. (I vote douze points!) 😀
In his speech to the parents and children Rivlin stressed that the communities in the Shomron were part of Israel, the same as Tel Aviv and Haifa. (Please note: He did NOT call these towns “West Bank Settlements” as the JPost cites. He called them Shomron (Samaria) communities):
Sometimes, people talk of the state of Tel Aviv or the state of Jerusalem, the Jewish state and the state of Israel,” Rivlin said as he stood in the school’s courtyard to help celebrate the first day of classes.
“Those who live here know that there is no such thing as the state of Tel Aviv or the state of Jerusalem. There is just one country, the state of Israel,” said Rivlin.
As he looked at out at the several hundred elementary school children that sat on folding chairs, under a large tan cloth awning, the president spoke of the role their West Bank community played in the history of the nation and the state.
Located 4.5 kilometers away from the Green Line, within the planned route of the security barrier, the small hilltop community of Peduel has under 2,000 people and is accessible by only a small winding road.
There was a time, Rivlin said, when Peduel was known as the back porch of the nation. However, he said it has come to symbolize the Israel’s historical and geographical connection, from the sea to the hilltops, from the past to the future.
“It connects the Biblical kingdom of Israel with the modern state,” he said. “Those who live here know that we will never again lend our hand to the dissolution of Jewish sovereignty.
He added that in Peduel, “we say, the Shomron is here, Tel Aviv is here, Jerusalem is here.”
“We did not come to Israel because we fled the Holocaust or pogroms, we came and we will continue to settle it out of happiness and joy and the understanding that this is our land,” said the president.
“You may think that this is the first day of your studies, but I will tell you something, that those who live in Pedual never stop learning. Every stone and tree tells a story.”
“The geography, much like the archeology of Samaria, is like the photographs of a family album. Those who live here live in the middle of a lesson in history, in Bible, in citizenship and love of the land,” Rivlin said.
“But the most important lesson learned here, is one of unity.”
You can watch the speech (in Hebrew) on Arutz Sheva.
Truly they were inspiring words. Let us hope that these words echo not only to the children and parents, but more importantly, to our media and our halls of power.
Good luck to all the pupils and teachers!