In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion in the media about lack of secular education in Charedi schools, and the (in my mind legitimate) arguments that if a school is funded by the government, the government should be able to dictate what the school teaches.
While I believe that every school should be required to teach basic life skills (at least English and Maths), schools should also be required to teach basic Jewish and Zionist values and history.
If Israel is to continue as a Democratic Jewish State, democratic Jewish values must be part of every publically-funded school in the country. (How Zionist ad Jewish values should be taught in the Arab Public schools is an interesting topic for a separate post).
This morning I was amazed to see an article on Page 2 of Yediot Achronot about a school in the North that catered to secular Kibbutzim in the area which until now did not have Mezuzot on the school buildings.
Recently, as they accepted students from other towns, they agreed to put Mezuzot on at least some classrooms, and even invited Chief Rabbi Metzger to fix the Mezuza on the door of a 7th grade classroom.
The response of some of the senior students was to circulate a petition to students, teachers, and parents that read in part;
“The school is identified with the “Hashomer Hatzair” movement, which is identified with secular culture and the left wing. Affixing a Mezuza in our school symbolizes the victory of Religion.”
To me it is shocking that the question of whether to affix a Mezuza should be up to the school. Just like every school should teach English, Science, and Math, it should teach Tenach, Jewish history, Israeli history, and Jewish Values and Practices.
There are many Jewish customs that are observed by almost all Israeli Jews. Brit Mila, Matzah on Pessach, Chanukah Candles, and Mezuzot to name a few of the Mitzvot observed in one way or other by over 90% of Jewish Israelis. These aren’t always practiced as a Religious statement, often they are seen as cultural symbols or as a way of identifying with the Jewish People.
Almost all businesses and public buildings in this country have a Mezuza, including army basis and government offices.
If the Ministry of Education feels that these values should be left to the discretion of the individual school, than as a nation we are failing our children.