Kindergarten, stand at attention Omri Maniv, Maariv, July 13 2011 After a large number of curricula and educational initiatives

focusing on Jewish heritage have been incorporated in high schools and elementary schools in the past two years, the kindergarteners are now joining too. New instructions from the Education Ministry determine that in the coming school year, which will start in about a month and a half, an emphasis will be placed on educating to Jewish values. This education will be expressed in the daily routine of the kindergarten: Each new week will begin with a ceremony that includes raising the national flag and singing the anthem. In addition to the symbolic ceremony, according to the new instructions, the kindergarten teachers are required to teach the children at least once a week about the state symbols. According to the requirement of the Education Ministry, the kindergarten teachers will train the children in singing Hatikva. The ministry has also set a measurable goal: The children should know how to sing the anthem by Independence Day. The pedagogic administration and the elementary education department in the Education Ministry will supervise the implementation of the instructions, and will report on the number of kindergarten teachers who meet the goal. In the booklet of instructions sent by the ministry to all kindergarten teachers in advance of next year, the instructions on the anthem and raising the flag come first, long before the instructions on the content that is to be taught or prevention of violence. “The kindergarten teacher will begin the week with the raising of the flag and signing of the anthem. By Independence Day all the children will know the words of the national anthem.” In addition, “the kindergarten teacher will teach the children about the symbols of the state (crest, flag, anthem) in relevant contexts and in different events once a week. The kindergarten teacher will engender identity and the emotion of social-national belonging over the entire year.” The new instructions are part of Education Minister Gidon Saar’s general plan to strengthen Jewish heritage values. Among other things, Saar has declared the “Going to Jerusalem” program, in which hundreds of thousands of pupils in 5th, 7th and 11th grades visit Israel’s capital every year. In addition, the controversial “Going to Hebron” program was launched, in which pupils visit the city of the forefathers—a plan that has been subjected to great political criticism. In addition, the ministry has implemented mandatory studies of Ethics of the Fathers in 8th grade, and pupils of 4th-9th grades have begun a mandatory class on “Jewish heritage and culture.” Education Ministry officials said that “as part of the Culture and Heritage program, starting from the next school year all official state kindergartens in Israel will learn about the State of Israel’s symbols, including the national anthem.” However, it is still not clear how the program will be implemented in Arab kindergartens. Education Ministry officials said on the matter, “these instructions do not apply to Arabic-speaking kindergartens. For these kindergartens, the ministry’s pre-elementary department is holding professional discussions on how to implement the Culture and Heritage program in a way that is adapted to this sector.”

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