Israeli government to organize school field trips to West Bank
Israel plans to take high school students to a religious site in Hebron that is revered by both Muslims and Jews and was the scene of a 1994 massacre that killed 29 Palestinians.
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But Saar said the trips were not intended to impact on the political debate. "There is no attempt to impose one view on the discussion, no coercion," he said.Skip to next paragraph
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In Mr. Solomon's view, bringing pupils to the cave lays bare the real intentions of the government, even if rhetorically Mr. Netanyahu has accepted a two state solution to the conflict. ''This is the hidden curriculum. The right wing continues to entertain the possibility that we will hold onto all of the Land of Israel. What Saar is doing is part of the hidden agenda of strengthening the Israeli hold in the West Bank, just like building settlements. This is the real agenda.''
Saar often gives expression to the right-wing nature of the Netanyahu government. In 2009 he was architect of a program that sent senior army officers into high schools to advise teachers on how to inspire students to enlist in combat units.
Solomon questioned whether the school trips would make reference to settler Baruch Goldstein's 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs. ''Will this be mentioned or does the story begin and end with Abraham?'' he asked.
Settlers welcome the initiative
Settlers are pleased with the plan. In the view of Hebron settler spokesman Noam Arnon, Saar's initiative is very welcome.
"This is essential for Israeli youth who grow up without knowing their own history and roots and are cut off from the historical heritage that ties them to the nation and its land. I hope it is carried out on a large scale."
Mr. Arnon would like the visiting youth to stop at a settler museum that recalls the 1929 massacre against the city's Jewish population by Palestinians. "They have to learn about the first big terror attack, what happened, why, and how to make sure it does not happen in the future."
Yehuda Shaul, an activist in the dovish soldiers' group Breaking the Silence, says his antioccupation organization would be glad to play a role in the tours.
"The pupils should know that for 800 settlers the city has been turned into a ghost town, all Palestinian market life has been shut down, and that families are sealed in their houses and have to climb ladders to leave their homes because they live on sterile roads where only non-Arabs can walk," he says. "If we're serious about Jewish values, we have to discuss those issues."
Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily says Saar's plan can only escalate tensions. "This is another step proving they are against peace and prefer settlements over peace," he says.
"The Ibrahimi mosque is absolutely an Islamic mosque," he adds. "We welcome any visitor from any religion but not in this way. This creates more confrontation."