Violence wreaks havoc on education

13th October 2000 at 01:00
ISRAEL. Both Jewish and Arab schools suffer as riots engulf even Israel's heartland

JEWISH and Arab educators are grappling with the traumatic effects of rioting on pupils. Recent upheaval left dozens dead and hundreds injured, mostly Palestinians. The riots were sparked by the visit of a right-wing Jewish politician to a site sacred to both Jews and Arabs. But for the first time they engulfed not only the West Bank and Gaza, but also the heart of Israel, inhabited by Arabs who are Israeli citizens. One in five Israelis is Arab.

In an unprecedented outburst of anger over religious insult and ethnic discrimination, Israeli Arab rioters closed roads to Jewish towns and neighbourhoods, and hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with rubber bullets and live ammunition.

"The atmosphere among pupils is negative. I fear it will affect their attitude to all symbols of authority - state, school and family," said Dr Mahmoud Massalha, head of the Dabburiya High School in northern Israel, which like other Israeli Arab schools, was on strike for two days.

"They see a huge gap between democracy education and hat happens. They feel alienated, they say the authorities would have reacted differently to Jews, and they were shocked by the TV pictures of Israeli soldiers killing a child ."

Meanwhile, in a neighbourhood of Upper Nazareth, frightened Jewish parents kept their children from school after Arabs stoned houses and cars, and set fire to nearby woods, according to Edna Rodrig, in charge of education. "The neighbourhood mainly houses new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, where order would have been restored long ago. The youths said they wanted to go and break Arab bones. The children are very scared."

The ministry of education is urging Jewish schools to organise activities to release pupils' anger and frustration. "Many Jewish pupils fear for their personal security," said a spokesperson. "In the Arab sector, inspectors are still trying to calm things down. We will have to build new trust."

While the policy is to separate Jewish and Arab pupils, a few non-profit organisations allow children from both sides to study together. "It's been very hard," said Amin Khalas, of the Centre for Jewish-Arab Education.

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