By Or Kashti – Haaretz.com
Ethnic hatred has become a basic element in the everyday life of Israeli youth, a forthcoming book finds.
“For me, personally, Arabs are something I can’t look at and can’t stand,” a 10th-grade girl from a high school in the central part of the country says in abominable Hebrew. “I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get the chance in the army to shoot one of them, I won’t think twice. I’m ready to kill someone with my hands, and it’s an Arab. In my education I learned that … their education is to be terrorists, and there is no belief in them. I live in an area of Arabs, and every day I see these Ishmaelites, who pass by the [bus] station and whistle. I wish them death.”
The student’s comments appear in a chapter devoted to ethnicity and racism among youth from a forthcoming book, “Scenes from School Life” (in Hebrew) by Idan Yaron and Yoram Harpaz. The book is based on anthropological observations made by Dr. Yaron, a sociologist, over the course of three years in a six-year, secular high school in the Israeli heartland – “the most average school we could find,” says Harpaz, a professor of education.
The book is nothing short of a page-turner, especially now, following the overt displays of racism and hatred of the Other that have been revealed in the country in the past month or so. Maybe “revealed” isn’t the right word, as it suggests surprise at the intensity of the phenomenon. But Yaron’s descriptions of what he saw at the school show that such hatred is a basic everyday element among youth, and a key component of their identity. Yaron portrays the hatred without rose-colored glasses or any attempt to present it as a sign of social “unity.” What he observed is unfiltered hatred. One conclusion that arises from the text is how little the education system is able – or wants – to deal with the racism problem.
Not all educators are indifferent or ineffective. There are, of course, teachers and others in the realm of education who adopt a different approach, who dare to try and take on the system. But they are a minority. The system’s internal logic operates differently.
Much of the chapter on racism revolves around the Bible lessons in a ninth-grade class, whose theme was revenge. “The class starts, and the students’ suggestions of examples of revenge are written on the blackboard,” the teacher told Yaron. A student named Yoav “insists that revenge is an important emotion. He utilizes the material being studied to hammer home his semi-covert message: All the Arabs should be killed. The class goes into an uproar. Five students agree with Yoav and say openly: The Arabs should be killed.”
One student relates that he heard in the synagogue on Shabbat that “Aravim zeh erev rav” [“Arabs are a rabble,” in a play on words], and also Amalek, and there is a commandment to kill them all,” a reference to the prototypical biblical enemy of the Children of Israel. Another student says he would take revenge on anyone who murdered his family, but would not kill them all.
“Some of the other students are outraged by this [softer stance],” the teacher reported. “The student then makes it clear that he has no love for Arabs and that he is not a leftist.”
Another student, Michal, says she is shocked by what she is hearing. She believes that the desire for revenge will only foment a cycle of blood; not all Arabs are bad, she adds, and certainly they don’t all deserve to die. “People who decree the fate of others so easily are not worthy of life,” she says.
Yoav himself claims to have heard Michal say: “Too bad you weren’t killed in a terrorist attack.”
“The students all start shouting,” the teacher says, according to Yaron. “Some are personally insulted, others are up in arms, and Michal finds herself alone and absorbing all the fire – ‘Arab lover,’ ‘leftist.’ I try to calm things down. The class is too distraught to move on to the biblical story. The bell rings. I let them out and suggest that they be more tolerant of one another.”
In the corridor during the break, the teacher notices that a crowd has gathered from all the ninth-grade classes. They have formed a human chain and are taunting Michal: “Fie, fie, fie, the Arabs will die.” The teacher: “I contemplated for five seconds whether to respond or keep going down the corridor. Finally I dispersed the gathering and insisted that Michal accompany me to the teachers’ room. She was in a state of shock, reeling under the insult, with tears to come instantly.”
Six students are suspended for two days. The teacher reports on his conversation with Michal: “She continues to be laconic. This is what always happens, she says. The opinions are racist, and her only regret is speaking out. I just want to hug her and say I’m sorry I put her through this trauma. I envy her courage to say aloud things that I sometimes am incapable of saying.”
Read the rest here…