MK Yoni Chetboun
MK Yoni ChetbounIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) is being urged to reinstate the Ministry’s program meant at encouraging school visits to Hevron.

On Thursday, MKs Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) and Shimon Ohayon (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu), both members of the Knesset’s Education Committee, sent a letter to Piron urging him to reinstate the program.

The initiative was started by Piron’s predecessor Gideon Saar and has the Ministry of Education funding transportation and programming for students at the Cave of the Patriarchs. Piron several months ago decided to cancel it and instead has put together a new list of recommended sites for school trips.

In their letter to Piron, MKs Chetboun and Ohayon wrote, "Visiting Hevron is a Jewish Zionist value, it is unthinkable that a Ministry responsible for the education of the children of Israel will not give this value an expression." They stressed that "it is precisely during times when Zionism is a dirty word in some circles, that the Ministry of Education should encourage student tours to Hevron."

MK Chetboun noted on Thursday that “the connection between the Jewish people and Hevron is not a question of right or left, it’s a Zionist value. It would be very appropriate for the Ministry of Education to foster this relationship, just as it fosters the Jewish relationship to the Golan, the Galilee and the Negev.”

Piron clarified in July, after the reports surfaced that he was cancelling the Hevron trips, that there has not been any recent change in his ministry's policies regarding school trips to Hevron.

While Minister Piron did not deny that he had scrapped his predecessor's program singling out the Cave of Patriarchs in Hevron as a preferred site for visits, he explained that the program he began implementing when he entered office is not meant to detract in any way from the City of Patriarchs, but to encourage schools to visit additional important sites throughout Israel.

He clarified that his new program includes a mandatory visit to Jerusalem, as has been the case in recent years, but also includes six additional destinations which change every year.

"One year these sites are in Gush Etzion, one year in Hevron, one year in the Jordan Valley, one year it’s developing towns and other important sites in Israel," said Piron.

"There is no reason to encourage only visits to Hevron and not encourage visits to other important sites in the land of Israel. There is one place that is a must and that is Jerusalem, but otherwise we will choose different destinations every year. Israel’s schoolchildren will tour all of Israel," he said.