Education Minister Shai Piron has opened an investigation into the admission procedures at the Bezalel Arts Academy in Jerusalem. The investigation was opened in the wake of complaints by many students that they were asked to describe their political affiliations and opinions during admission interviews. Bezalel, with tracks in physical and digital arts, including film, is considered the most prestigious art school in Israel, and one of the top such schools in Europe.
Bezalel has a reputation among many Israelis as being leftist and anti-religious, and students have complained in the past that they were made to feel uncomfortable if they expressed opinions not “in line” with the “expected” views of leftist students. Officials in Piron's office said they had received many such complaints, and on Voice of Israel public radio Sunday, MK Gila Gamliel described several of the incidents.
In the first incident, a student said she was asked during an interview if she believed the Gilo neighborhood – built on land liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War – was part of Jerusalem. In another incident, a student said she was asked about who was permitted by an admissions committee in her home town of Rakefet – the implication being that the committee existed to keep Arabs out. Gamliel said that the questions in these and other examples were political in nature, and there was no reason to be asking these questions of any student, ever.
In response, a Bezalel department head said that all students were asked similar questions in order to determine how “sensitive they are to social and political issues.” In a statement, Bezalel said that the question relating to Gilo was asked from the standpoint of urbanization of the area, as opposed to the political context the student thought was being described.