New York school Chancellor Joel Klein was the keynote speaker Sunday night to kick off events for the 43rd Jerusalem Unification Day, which officially starts Tuesday night.
Jerusalem Day celebrates the unification of the capital in the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Jordanian occupation ended.
Klein brought with him his controversial education reform program that he says can be applied in Jerusalem. Speaking at a day-long conference hosted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Klein spoke of his reforms that promote different education systems along side each other.
He has headed New York City schools for eight years and has introduced reforms that focus on leadership in individual schools and publicly grading schools according to their performance.
Klein noted in the New York Post last week that test scores for New York’s students are higher, and graduation rates are at a record high because of an improvement in the quality of teachers. He said that his ideas are applicable to Jerusalem, where education includes secular, hareidi religious, national religious and Arab education systems.
Promoting education in the capital is the theme of Jerusalem Day for the second year in row, and several cultural events will take place during the rest of the week.
In the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'uma), a national Industrial Know-How exhibition will feature innovative Israeli products and developments executed by students focusing on the principles of sustainability, and applying an educated use of electricity.
Following all-night music, the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva's festive evening attended by the Prime Minister followed by the yeshiva's singing and dancing march to the Western Wall after midnight, a sunrise performance and the traditional afternoon parade to the Western Wall for dancing and prayers, dozens of tours, most of them free, are offered in the Old City and at the City Hall square.
The annual "flag dance” of youth groups will begin at 16:00 on Wednesday, when tens of thousands of people are expected.
Unprecedented growth catapulted Jerusalem to one of the world's most popular tourist attractions, but the new status of the capital also has made it the focal point of the Arab-Israeli struggle.
This year’s events are being celebrated in the shadow of the American initiative to accept Palestinian Authority demands for sovereignty over the areas of the city formerly occupied by Jordan, which ruled without a mandate from the United Nations.
However, the international community, including the United States, has not accepted Israeli sovereignty over the same areas despite Israel’s reversing Jordanian policy and opening all holy sites to Christians. Jordan had banned them, as well as Jews, from visiting synagogues and churches.