PM Netanyahu on the first day of school. (Avi Ohayon/GPO) (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Netanyahu first day school

Israel’s two million elementary and high school students returned to school on September 1. “We want excellence and Zionism,” Prime Minister Netanyahu stated.

After a long and exceptionally hot summer, Israel’s 2,194,931 pupils returned Tuesday to approximately 4,700 schools.

Entering the classroom for the first time, 157,477 first-graders excitedly and anxiously joined their peers as they set foot on their path to knowledge. Some 120,000 12th graders began their last year of high school.

The school year commenced with special events, many attended by Israel’s leadership.

Personal and National Milestones

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett accompanied his daughter Avigayil on her first day to school as a first-grader in Ra’anana, near Tel Aviv. He acknowledged that he, too, was moved on this special day, both as a father and as minister of education.

Saying he was determined to succeed with his new plans for the education system, he wished the children of Israel a successful year, expressing hope that his program will provide them with better tools to become productive citizens.

Netanyahu: ‘Be Zionists’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the 2015-2016 school year at Amirim primary school in Ashdod, accompanied by Mayor Dr. Yehiel Lasri and the Education Ministry’s Southern District Director Amira Chaim.

“We want you to be excellent students and we want you to be Zionists,” Netanyahu told a group of students. “We want excellence and Zionism. Be loyal citizens of the state and also succeed – thanks to yourselves – in doing many things. Play football better and maybe solve math problems better. Maybe write a composition in Hebrew better. Do all of these things and maybe know English better too. We want you to excel. These are the two things we want. I very much hope that you will succeed and have fun. I hope that you all enjoy your lessons and the breaks and that you are good friends with each other. It is important that you be good friends. May you have much success.”

Netanyahu also referred to the rocket attack from Gaza on southern Israel that occurred just hours before the first bell rang. He stressed that while Israel educates its students to desire peace, the Hamas terror organization, which rules the Gaza Strip just miles away, educates to achieve “the opposite of peace” – hatred and war.

“The first lesson is ‘Shalom first grade’ with the emphasis on shalom [peace]. We educate our children for peace. A few kilometers from here, Hamas teaches its children the opposite of peace and it tries, from time to time, to fire at us, at you.”

“Our policy is clear – zero restraint, zero let-up, zero tolerance for terrorism,” he vowed. “We want peace, but first of all we must watch over our land, our children. We must watch over you. This is our first obligation – the security of our children.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel