Israeli, Palestinian Students Slowly Return to Campuses

Higher education institutions in the south of Israel have announced that they plan to reopen their doors and attempt to get back to the summer semester routine even though the security situation there remains tenuous.

Sapir Academic College had planned on opening on Sunday, but for security reasons postponed until Tuesday, wrote Lidar Grave-Lazi of The Jerusalem Post.  It announced alternate options for final exam testing including an option for students to choose their highest grades from the second and third testing periods.

“We are proud of you for the resilience you have discovered and for your spirit of voluntarism that pulses through you, and we hope that the resumption of operations at the College will pass successfully,” the institution wrote on its Facebook page.

Ben Gurion University announced that its classes would commence on Tuesday, August 26, per guidelines from Home Front Command (HFC). Final exams had been canceled until further notice, but now will resume on this date a second round will be offered between September 21 and October 24.   The academic school year begins October 26, as usual.

Achva Academic College says it will gradually begin its summer semester, and asked students to be on the watch for notifications online as to opening dates.  The college had canceled exams when they temporarily shut down for security reasons, but will begin the exam period on Aug. 19.  Each student may have two testing opportunities.

The Sami Shamoon College of Engineering chose to reopen on Sunday, with final exams beginning on Tuesday, but failed to notify some students.  That notwithstanding, many students felt it would be unsafe to return, in spite of any notification from the college.

“I don’t know about you, but as far as I am concerned, code red sirens don’t go together with studies,” one student wrote on the College’s Facebook page.

And the mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, is concerned as well.

“The school year in Ashkelon will be open only in the reality of absolute security in the South. If the drizzle of rockets continues, there will be no classes. Unequivocally,” the mayor wrote on his Facebook page.

Israel’s Education Minister Shai Piron, according to Hillel Fendel of the Israel National News, announced that the coming school year will be dedicated to “societal tolerance and opposition to all discrimination and hatred”.  Piron is a former rabbi and former co-dean of the Petach Tikvah Hesder Yeshiva.

 “During Operation Protective Edge, we have been exposed to expressions of racism and incitement that cannot be tolerated.” He said the first week of school next month will feature discussions with students on tolerance, acceptance of others, and opposition to all racism.

Three teenagers were abducted and murdered by Palestinian terrorists of Hamas before the current mini-war in Gaza.  In a short time, an Arab boy was killed by Jews.  Piron’s reaction was that murder is murder whether it is committed by Jews or Zionists.

When a search began to find the abducted boys, Piron said Israel’s people were overtaken by a sense of unity, especially as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and volunteers searched for the teens, and along with the fact that the attitude of the parents of the three children, who called for prayer and  positive energy.  During this time, only isolated cases of anti-Arab sentiment were reported.  The murder of the Arab boy, however, was followed by days of Arab rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere, writes Fendel of the Israel National News.

In Gaza City, approximately 141 schools have been damaged by the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian enclave, writes Ola Attalah for the Turkish Press. The Palestinian Education Ministry says that 22 schools would be unable to receive students for the new school year, which is scheduled for later this month.  The ministry added that the cost to repair the schools would be approximately $10 million.  Worse, 19 educational workers were killed in in the “onslaught”.

Currently Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are in Cairo discussing  the possibility cease-fire after an Egypt-assisted 72-hour ceasefire.  This after approximately 1,940 Palestinians have been killed in what has become Israel’s most deadly offenses.  Palestinian officials say that 10,000 citizens have been injured.  Israeli figures show that 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in the Gaza Strip.  Al Jazeera reported today that the 72- hour ceasefire had been extended for five days due to the fact that no long-term agreement had been made.

A policy brief authored by Aimee Shalan, director of the Friends of Birzeit University, and Samer Abdelnour, assistant professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, is an effort to call attention to the argument that Israel should be held accountable for  its “violations of Palestinians’ right to education“.