Daily Israel Report

Jerusalem School Teaches About Nakba - And is Proud of It

A bilingual school in Jerusalem teaches the establishment of Israel as The Nakba - Arabic for "tragedy" - and says it is proud to do so.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/9/2012, 9:04 AM

Nakba Day events
Nakba Day events
Flash 90

A multicultural, bilingual school in Jerusalem which teaches its students that the establishment of the state of Israel is what the Arabs term it,  “The Nakba” - Arabic for tragedy - is saying that it is proud of doing so.

The school is “Yad Beyad” (Hand in Hand), located in the Patt neighborhood of southern Jerusalem. The school is one of a network of several schools in Israel in which Jewish and Arab students study together.

The Arab world views the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland leading to the establishment of the State of Israel as a “nakba” and mark the day of Israel’s establishment as “Nakba Day.” That day is often characterized by protests and disturbances in Israel and outside it.

Some textbooks in the Israeli Arab school systems have continued to refer to “Nakba Day” as such.

The Chairman of Yad Beyad’s parents’ association, Paz Cohen, told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that the school’s parents are not ashamed and are even proud of the fact that the “Nakba” approach is being taught at the school.

“In our school the students study about the Nakba Day and celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day),” Cohen said, adding, “The fact that my children also learn about the history of the other side sharpens their perception as law-abiding Israeli citizens.”

Cohen said the Education Minister and Knesset Speaker visited the school last month and are well-aware of the fact that the concept of “Nakba” is being taught at the school as an acceptable reaction to the Jewish state's existence -  a school funded by the state of Israel.

“They know about it and they were even asked about it, though we saw that they felt uneasy about it,” he said. “The school is an official school which is recognized by the Education Ministry. We teach all the core subjects required by the Ministry of Education and we also teach about the Nakba, and we certainly are not ashamed of it.”

Cohen added that he believes all schools in Israel should teach about the Nakba. “Students from east Jerusalem who study here asked the Minister of Education why they learn about Jewish history but the Jewish schools in the country do not learn about Palestinian heritage,” he said.

Arutz Sheva notes that the term "Palestinian heritage" is a moot point, as there was no group called the  "Palestinian people" before the establishment of the state of Israel and even the word, whose source is Roman,  cannot be pronounced properly by Arabs, who do not have the "p" sound in their native language.

Cohen, who has two daughters at school, said he is not concerned about intermarriage and assimilation with the Arabs.

“I have two daughters. They know about our family’s background,” he said. “We live in a Jewish State and I hope the State will remain the home of Jewish people. Rather than frightening us all the time and having us end up in a situation where we have a bi-national state, it would be better that people open themselves up and see that we have some very good people among our neighbors. And if you ask me whether I am afraid my daughter will marry an Arab, then this question does not concern me.”

The Knesset approved last year a law which has come to be known as the “Nakba Law”. The law stipulates that the Minister of Finance may withhold or reduce budgets from government-funded bodies who deny the existence of Israel.

The law says that “any body that is funded by the state, or a public institute that is supported by the state, will be barred from allocating money to activity that involves the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people; the negation of the state’s democratic character; support for armed struggle, or terror acts by an enemy or a terror organization against the state of Israel; incitement to racism, violence and terror and dishonoring the national flag or the national symbol.”

Arutz Sheva contacted the Education Ministry and asked how it supports a school that teaches about the Nakba, but did not receive a reply.