Education in Jerusalem: Where are we heading?

As the Tawjihi ( official high school examination system) finished and results were out, a nightmare ended in the lives our students, and a horrific reality awaits them when we think of the situation of education in Palestine. An education institution that are actually to cope with the emerging changes and needs of the society , yet moving towards futuristic models and however still applying the same in futile methods of teaching and education , that only results in a purging situation of people with graduate studies and inefficiency when it comes to the demand and needs of the society and its market.

those lucky, can afford to leave to study abroad, which on a personal level I strongly recommend, in order to open new horizons to our youth beyond the life of checkpoints and restrictions that are lived here, starting with movement restrictions and ending with state-violence and violations that can finish in the loss of lives either by perishing in prisons or a grave.

In Jerusalem, things can be considered worse, because the PA does not fully rule Jerusalem, and the restrictions are not completely visible, and in comparison with the peers in the West Bank, it is more of a paradise.

The unfortunate situation in the PA, from corruption, the absence of good governance, lack of accountability, repression of freedoms, minimal incomes that could count to poverty, while having maximal profits that are way exaggerated. All these factors, in addition to a systematic Israelization to Jerusalem, made students in Jerusalem find it more convenient to study in Israeli universities.

It sounds blurry to see how much the Israeli government is investing in recruiting Palestinians to its universities. It reminds me of the time when Palestinians in Jerusalem were allowed to report living in the outskirts of Jerusalem to cut them off the private benefits a decade later.

Another thought popped to my head was my time, when almost three decades ago, we Palestinians where considered overseas students when the luxury of accepting them occurs.

The increasing numbers of schools that belong to the Israeli government, and the unprecedented amount of new private schools that are being authorized working for the system ( it is a fact that there is a severe deficiency of classrooms\schools for Palestinians in Jerusalem ), in a time that Israel is forbidding the Palestinian ministry of education to perform in Jerusalem, which increases the complexity and the difficulties on the education to the schools in Jerusalem.

Having students going to the bigrut exams ( the Israeli high school system) can be easily related to the frustration from the Tawjihi that continues to prove its inefficiency and its unneedy amount of pressure put on the students. However, at the same time, Israel is facilitating an easy escape through the Bigrut, and by allowing all those knew emerging educational centers and colleges.

What is striking now, is that reputable private schools in Jerusalem are promoting studying in Israeli institutions and universities, and entirely ignoring Palestinian universities in an attempt that makes Israeli options as the natural outcome of being a student in Jerusalem.

Could Israel suddenly turn into a beautiful, caring occupying state and put us in what may be called internalizing colonolization? I just invented this term.)

I wrote an article about fifteen years ago under the title of ” Not have they only occupied the land but the minds.” In that article, I was reflecting on an experience I encountered in the Vanleer Institue that hosted Arabs\PAlestinians (from Israel) in a seminar to discuss the education in the Arab society inside Israel. I was appalled then by the fact that everyone was considering the future of Arab culture in Hebrew by Arabs, to a group of many Arabs and Israeli hosts. Back then I felt grateful to the fact that we live under occupation, and that the best thing that happened to us in Jerusalem is that we remain Palestinians. The non-israelization of the education system was something that by all means saved our identities from being distorted and destroyed.

From that moment on, the systematic approach to Israelizing the Jerusalem schools was running like a machine. I really (naively) believed that it could not happen because we have a living experience to what happened to our people inside what became Israel. How they strive today to attach to their Palestinian identity and Palestinian hood politically and culturally.

Sadly, disappointingly, it all happened under our noses, and we were all watching, and in our maximum efforts we condemned, and now we reached a situation where it even sounds odd to raise awareness about the situation. I feel like someone from outer space. It is not only Israeli schools in Jerusalem that mobilize for higher education institutes in Israel but also private schools that are considered historically aligned with the threats of the Israelization of the Palestinian identity.

At the same time, I am not against studying in Israeli universities. After all, they offer an excellent education. However, my worries are about how and why our students are going there. In my old time of romantic aspirations, I seriously went to the Hebrew university believing that these people occupied my land, I will regain my rights by using them in benefiting from education that can build a better Palestinian quest. Back then I also believed that it was just a matter of months when Saddam Hussein takes back Palestine to the womb of the Arabs!!!

To where is all this leading us? I cannot have any hopeful answer anymore.

I don’t throw words when I say that I am the person who strives for peace. The peace I strive for is built on justice, and justice can never be achieved as we move from the situation of being oppressed under occupation to colonize under the rule. That internalization of occupation and colonolization is only suffocating what is left in any hope for justice… justice that can only be achieved through people who can carry on for the future, and the future cannot be built by a distorted education that defames identities.

Justice needs equality ….and equal Palestinians need a long way in reclaiming their freedom and maintaining their identities, and this needs outstanding education.