PM Netanyahu and Minister of Education Piron at the opening of the school year (Photo: Koby Gideon/GPO)

After a prolonged summer of warfare and strife, Israel’s children went back to school Monday. A focus was placed this year on the schools surrounding the Gaza Strip, as parents still fear the looming threat posed by Hamas’s rockets.

Israel’s new school year had 2,105,394 students returning to classes today, with some 4,555 schools and 15,200 kindergartens opening their doors after an intense summer of war. Across the country, there were 149,705 new first-graders excited to begin school.

A focus was placed this year on the schools surrounding the Gaza Strip, as parents still fear the looming threat posed by Hamas’s rockets.

PM Netanyahu: Study the Bible, our Heritage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shai Piron opened the 2014-2015 school year by meeting with first and second grade pupils at two schools in the south. Netanyahu told the pupils: “Be good friends with each other and be hungry for knowledge. This is what distinguishes us and gives our people special strength. We are the People of the Book and today the people of the tablet as well. We hold on to our heritage and also the future. Study the Bible, our heritage, math, computers and science. Our heritage and the future go hand in hand. Be hungry for knowledge on behalf of the People of Israel, the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, yourselves and your families. We will take care to give you knowledge and security.”

Reflecting on the tribulations of the summer, Netanyahu added: “I know that you did not have as nice a summer as you had planned. I hope that during the upcoming holidays you will have time to relax, play and be with your families and friends. Be friends with each other. Be good children for your parents and be excellent pupils. Have a safe and successful year. Together we will continue the momentum of development because this is the strongest response to our enemies. They thought that they could drive us out of here. We are building up, and will build up, this country and this part of it.”

Education Minister Piron called on the pupils to look after each other: “If during the year a child does not come to school because he is sick, don’t forget to call him. Treat your teachers with respect. When you talk to each other in the yard, don’t forget to talk nicely. Our greatest test is not how we behave in wartime but how we behave in times of peace. Our true test is the test of morality, identity and treating each other properly.”

Tazpit News Agency reported that Minister of Finance Yair Lapid visited the Sha’ar Hanegev school in the south, stating: “I am so excited to see you today, after your vacation was stolen. You have had a very difficult summer. Thanks for surviving the summer with honors.”

Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett chose to kick off the school year at the Makor Chaim yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion, home to two of the three boys brutally kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in June. Speaking to students and teachers, Bennett noted how the school was at the forefront of “the difficult events” of the past summer, but said they and the Jewish people could draw strength from the fact that from “the abduction, and from there to Operation Protective Edge, we presented an Israel united, determined and faithful, even on the battlefield. We must always strive for determination and unity.”

On a Personal Level

On a personal level, the first day of school is always exciting, at any age. “It was fun to be back. I was really excited to see my friends again,” said Eitan, aged 7, who started the second grade, although he was concerned about possible homework. On the other hand, Noa, aged 10, expressed pleasure at returning to school.

Dan, who has just made Aliyah with his family, accompanied his daughter on her first day of school in Israel. “It was extremely moving,” said Dan. “My daughter is very excited to make new friends and start her new life here. I wish her much success with learning her Hebrew,” he concluded.

Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff writer, United with Israel