Israel’s special situation – Jewish settlement in an Arabic-speaking area and extensive (Jewish) immigration of people with diverse cultural backgrounds – places great demands on the education system. Child education and adult education are well developed. Immigrants have so-called ulpanim, fast courses in Hebrew. In 2005, 19,000 adults participated in such language studies and nearly 180,000 were enrolled in some form of adult education. Almost all of the literate Jewish population is literate, with the exception of some newly arrived migrants from countries with lower literacy and some older people in remote parts of the country, e.g. Negev desert. Also, the Arab part of the population has high literacy, and in the West Bank and Gaza, only 5% (2009) of the adult population is estimated to be illiterate, slightly more women than men.
Since 1969 there has been compulsory schooling for children from 5 to 16 years of age. The education is free until the age of 18. The Jewish and Arab school systems are basically separate, and the Arab schools comprise about 20% of the total student population. The Arab schools have a lower standard than their Jewish counterparts, with larger student groups, poorer premises, poorer educational material, etc. The school system also includes state and state-supported religious schools, whose profile may cover a maximum of 25% of the timetable. About one-third of Jewish students attend religious schools, a minority of whom attend ultra-Orthodox Torah schools whose content is not regulated by state regulations.
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The goal of the school system is to equalize social and educational differences between students of different origins. Nevertheless, the proportion of children in higher education is greater among Ashkenazi than among Sephardi. The Palestinians, especially the Christians, are usually considered to be the most well-educated Arab population, largely an effect of UNRWA’s educational activities. In Jewish schools, Hebrew is the language of instruction with Arabic as an optional language. At the upper secondary level, Jewish students have the opportunity to choose an academic, technical, agricultural, military or religious program. After high school, the students graduate, backstage, and an approved result is a requirement for access to higher education. Teaching in the Arab areas is led by a special department of the Ministry of Education following the Jordanian and Egyptian designs. In Arabic schools are taught in Arabic, but Hebrew is compulsory from the fourth grade.
The proportion of college students is very large, about 2/3 of the age class. Israel has eight universities and a technical college, which is largely funded from abroad. In addition, there are a number of other institutions of specialized higher education. In occupied areas there are dozens of universities and other higher education institutions, which are funded by various Arab countries and organizations.
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2002 Re-occupation of the West Bank
In March 2002, Israel began a total re-occupation of the West Bank. It stretched for over 5 weeks, culminating in the Jenin massacre in the northern West Bank. The world first became aware of the massacre when Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Ha’aretz newspaper on April 9, 2002, that a massacre was underway in Jenin and that it was problematic for Israel’s reputation. An unknown number of Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the camp, and part of the camp leveled the ground. The official numbers were 80, unofficially they were at hundreds. Subsequently, the UN should have conducted an independent investigation into the events in the camp, but this was hampered by Israel. Norwegian diplomat Terje Rød Larsen who had played a key role in the peace process was declared persona non grata in Israel after characterizing the massacre as a humanitarian disaster and morally damning.
Up to 1,000 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s 5-week war in the West Bank and about 5,000 captured. All PNA (Palestinian Authority) offices were destroyed by Israeli troops, and all Palestinian police stations burst into the air.
For a few months, Israeli terror turned international opinion in favor of the Palestinians, but already in the summer of 2002, the United States aligned itself with Israel in its refusal to negotiate with President Arafat. At the same time, Israel initiated the construction of a wall around the West Bank that would close the Palestinian population inside the world’s largest concentration camp.
Israel’s war against Palestine is costing not only the dead but also the economic decline in Israel, rising unemployment and the exodus of the Jews who had the opportunity. Nevertheless, Sharon reaffirmed his mandate in January 2003 when Likud won 37 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, while the Labor Party declined from 25 to 19. Opposition to his terrorist policy towards the Palestinians was very limited in Israel, and the Labor Party deeply divided. One of the few opposition streams the authorities took seriously was the movement of officers who refused to serve in the occupied territories.
Internationally, in March 2002, the re-occupation of the West Bank triggered the boycott of Israeli goods – especially in Europe. At the same time, efforts were made to abolish the preferential agreements for goods that Israel had in the EU. But without that it produced greater results. The EU did not want contradictions with the US on the issue of Palestine, and the United States backed Israel 100%. It didn’t give the peace any chance.
Roadmap for Peace
However, after its attack on Iraq in the spring of 2003, the United States had promised to promote peace efforts. The so-called “Roadmap for Peace” (Roadmap) was due to start in May. The Palestinians had accepted the plan’s points and to remove the claim that the US / Israel had no negotiating counterpart, Arafat appointed May Mahmoud Abbas to the Prime Minister. However, Israel refused to accept the peace plan, and in June went so far as to “accept the spirit of the plan”. During the summer, Israel removed some unmanned settlement outposts in the West Bank – which themselves were illegal under Israeli law – and released a few hundred ordinary (non-political) Palestinian prisoners who were still facing release. At the same time, attacks against the West Bank and Gaza escalated. Attacks met by terrorist acts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad inside Israel. In early July, however, Mahmoud Abbas managed to get the militant groups to conclude a unilateral ceasefire, which they held until mid-August. The ceasefire was used by Israel to step up its attacks, executions and provocations. During the period, no Israelis were killed, while Israel killed approx. 50 Palestinians. In early August, Israel killed a senior Hamas member in Hebron. It triggered retaliation by Hamas in the form of a suicide bomb in Jerusalem that killed 20. Israel’s ongoing killings and provocations had borne fruit – the ceasefire had collapsed and the same fate very quickly suffered the roadmap. Israel initiated open war against Hamas- which Israel had otherwise fostered in the 1980s. Israel demanded from Abbas that he stop the militant groups, but without giving him time before Israel himself assassinated. At the beginning of September 2003, Abbas therefore withdrew from the Prime Minister’s Office, citing Israel’s and the United States’ unwillingness to make peace. The short-lived peace process was undesirable by Israel, who even arranged to shoot it down.