Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) decided on Wednesday to cancel a program meant at encouraging school visits to Hevron, and particularly Mearat HaMachpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs), Channel 10 News reported.
The initiative was started by Piron’s predecessor, Gideon Saar, who said two years ago that he would act to bring all Israeli students to visit Hevron, in order to make it clear to the Arabs that there will always be a Jewish presence there.
According to Wednesday’s report, Piron has decided to cancel the initiative and instead has put together a new list of recommended sites for school trips.
The initiative saw the Ministry of Education funding transportation and programming for students at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Saar, who serves today as Interior Minister, later expanded the program and said that "there was a Jewish settlement in Hevron over the years, even when the people of Israel were in exile. Jews, according to our faith, will always live in Hevron. We must not mislead the Arabs into thinking that one day there will be no Jews living in Kiryat Arba and Hevron.”
Sources close to Minister Piron clarified to Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that Israeli children will continue to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs next year as well. They added that "additional sites are being added to the list, but Hevron will remain on it.”
Responding to Piron’s decision, the Jewish community in Hevron said, "Regrettably, the Minister of Education decided to prevent students in Israel from strengthening their connection to the historic roots of the Patriarchs. The Minister of Education should remember that his job is to connect Israeli students to their identity and heritage and not to separate them from them. The basis and the name of the State of Israel are rooted in the first Israeli, Jacob, who was buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs. From here begins the Jewish and Israeli identity. The previous Minister of Education understood and taught this. We will continue our mission to connect and unify, and we hope that the current Education Minister will reverse his decision and choose not to destroy and disconnect but rather to build and connect.”