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Haredi education reinforces insularity, but ‘peaceful coexistence’ too

Jack Guez - AFP
The texts still emphasized opposition to modernity, and limited or unequal acceptance of others

A study by an education watchdog revealed that textbooks used in Jaredi Orthodox schools in Israel, despite promoting insularity, were also encouraging of peaceful conduct and coexistence within Israeli society, reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Thursday.

93 textbooks used in grades 1 through 12 from two major educational frameworks for haredi schools were looked at in the study, conducted by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), a Jerusalem-based organization that monitors school curricula and textbooks across the Middle East.

The organizations uses the standards of peace and tolerance in accordance with the United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO.

According to the author of the study, reported JTA, the textbooks promoted “pragmatic coexistence,” which encourages students to participate in Israeli society as long as it did not conflict with the community norms.

The study said that, “commitment to peaceful conduct which forms the foundation of rabbinical Judaism is evident throughout the curricula.”

However, the study determined that overall the curriculum was not up to par with the UNESCO standards.

There was still heavy emphasis in the texts that opposed modernity, and promoted limited or unequal acceptance of others, said the study.

There was little focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and higher focus on anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jewish people by the world at large.

It was also heavily centered on Ashkenazi haredi culture and not inclusive of the experience of haredim among Mizrachi or Sephardic Jews.

According to the study, the “textbooks generate a nostalgic consciousness that seeks to preserve and recreate traditional Eastern European Jewry — defining Haredi identity, shaping its goals and boundaries, and distinguishing itself from other forms of Israeli public,” reported JTA.

Women are depicted secondarily in the texts and encouraged to earn the family’s livelihood, while not being empowered.

The textbooks also express contemptuous sentiments towards secular society, holding even more contempt for Reform Judaism, fearing it will lead to an alternative religion.

The “textbooks themselves, treated here as the researched corpus, do not satisfactorily meet all of UNESCO standards and beg for a serious reevaluation,” said the study.

Representing about 10 percent of the Israeli population, the more extreme groups from the ultra-orthodox sector do not accept the authority of the secular institutions of government and do their best to avoid its law enforcement and judicial systems, relying on religious doctrine and rabbinical authorities instead.

Despite being “exempt” or “recognized but unofficial” institutions, the schools still receive up to 75 percent, and a handful that get 100 percent, of their budget from the Israeli government through the Ministry of Education’s Haredi Department. The “exempt” institutions are not subject to supervision, while those receiving 100 percent of their funding from the Haredi department are under the department’s full supervision.


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