On 22.07.2000 Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert appeared on the evening news of the Israeli television and said “nonsense” in his response to a statement by Mr. Taher Nammari, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PHRMG, who said in the same news bulletin that the Municipality only built five schools since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, and that 15,000 pupils are prevented from attending school every year. Mr. Nammari said that the Israeli Municipality and Ministry of Education were responsible for not applying basic compulsory free education for Arab pupils in East Jerusalem schools.
Therefore, the PHRMG paid attention to the legal side of this vital facility in the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem. Mayor Olmert said that the Municipality has built 163 classrooms that provided space for 5053 pupils since 1967, and we ask: Did this number of classrooms solve the problem? Did the Municipality provide free and adequate education for all Palestinian children in East Jerusalem?
And so, the PHRMG asked the researcher Mr. Evan Weiss to conduct a report on education in East Jerusalem, based on figures and facts in order to provide a clear picture of the situation, reflecting both the lack of adequate schools and classrooms and the lack of educational facilities, which violates one of the basic human rights as mentioned in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1989.
The PHRMG presents this report to all officials and people concerned, to reveal the sad educational situation in East Jerusalem government schools, and uncover the wide gap in public learning between East and West Jerusalem schools, regarding buildings, classrooms and facilities provided. By publishing this report, we aim to motivate all parties concerned to support the right in education of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem.
Introduction and Background
reports and articles have highlighted problems in the Palestinian, East
Jerusalem school system. The International Relations Center of Orient
House discussed restrictions on funding for East Jerusalem schools as part
of a report on Israeli policies directed against Palestinian
A recent Jerusalem Times article opened saying, “The education sector in
East Jerusalem is known to suffer from a less than stellar curriculum,
administration that can be incompetent, a teaching staff that is not
always adequately trained for its specific student population, large
classes, lack of extracurricular programs, and an inability to monitor the
attendance of students.”[ii]
It goes on to discuss rising truancy rates among Palestinian Jerusalemite
children. Even a committee headed by the former director-general of the
Ministry of Education, General Ben-Zion Dal, submitted a scathing report
to the government citing high illiteracy rates, high drop-out rates, a
severe lack of accommodations, and personnel shortages, among other
The purpose of this report is to explore the conditions of Palestinian education in East Jerusalem based on first-hand observation and research. Although this report repeats many issues previously addressed, my main objective is to provide an overall picture of the education system and to illustrate what Palestinian children experience in East Jerusalem schools. Throughout this report, I will offer comparisons to conditions in West Jerusalem to illustrate the discrepancy in standards between the two sides of the city. Following a description of the East Jerusalem system, the report discusses current efforts of the Israeli government to improve those conditions and attempts to forecast how the system might look in five years.
There are several human and children’s rights standards by which to judge the education system for Palestinian Jerusalemites. First, Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in December of 1948, states:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education
that shall be given to their children.
In November 1989, the UN reiterated and elaborated on the rights of children to an education in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This report is concerned primarily with UDHR Article 26:1 and CRC Articles 2, 4, and 28:1a and 1b. Ratified by 191 countries out of 193 (all except Somalia and the United States), the CRC states the following:
1. States Parties shall
respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each
child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind,
irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s
race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national, ethnic, or social origin, property disability, birth or other
2. States Parties shall
take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected
against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the
status, activities, beliefs, or the child’s parents legal guardians or
States parties shall
undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures
for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present
Convention. With regard to economic, social, or cultural rights, States
Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their
available resources and, where needed, within the framework of
1. States Parties
recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to
achieving this progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they
shall in particular:
Make primary education compulsory and available, free to all;
Encourage the development of different forms of secondary
education, including general and vocational education, make them available
and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the
introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case
Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by
every appropriate means;
Make educational and vocational information and guidance available
and accessible to all children;
Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the
reduction of drop-out rates.
2. States Parties shall
take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is
administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in
conformity with the present Convention
3. States Parties shall
promote and encourage international co-operation on matters relating to
education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of
ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to
scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this
regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing
There are three types of education available in East Jerusalem: public, private, and religious. The Israeli government pays for public education in both East and West Jerusalem through state and municipal taxes. Funds from the state Ministry of Education are channeled into Jerusalem’s municipal budget, and the municipality is then entirely responsible for the administration of both West and East Jerusalem schools. Supervisors are appointed by the Ministry of Education to monitor the schools and oversee their administration, making recommendations and working with the municipality to improve the school system.
While the Israeli government finances and administers the schools, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) determines the curriculum in East Jerusalem schools. The PNA has adopted the Jordanian curriculum, which it uses throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well. Under this curriculum, all students follow the same course schedule from kindergarten through ninth grade. They take courses in mathematics, science, geography, history and religion, as well as Arabic and English. At the end of grade 10, students have the option of selecting either the literary or science track. Both tracks include the core subjects of religion, mathematics, Arabic and Hebrew. The literary track also includes history, geography and limited science. The science track, however, adds physics, chemistry, and biology. Following completion of their twelfth year, Palestinian students take the matriculation exams, called tawjihi.
Despite the provisions of UDHR Article 26:2 that mandate “strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms [and]…understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations,” the PNA does not promote human rights education. According to Tsipi Erbaz, coordinator of joint Arab-Jewish projects for the municipality, in the department of Alternative Education Programming, “To my knowledge there is no such thing as human rights in the Palestinian curriculum.”[iv] In September 2000, the PNA will publish its own curriculum and abandon the Jordanian one. Despite several attempts, the Palestinian Ministry of Education never responded to requests for an interview with a representative of the Department of the Curriculum to discuss how the new Palestinian curriculum will approach issues of human rights and coexistence. It will be interesting to examine these issues when the new curriculum is released.[v]
I visited, toured and met with administrators and teachers at six public schools in East Jerusalem. They were chosen because they were either the largest schools or those most representative of the general conditions. For purposes of comparison, I also visited three private schools in East Jerusalem and two public schools in West Jerusalem.
In addition, I met with administrators from the municipality, in particular Avi Sela’a, who is responsible for the implementation of a new government project, termed the Wholistic Project. This project seeks to improve the quality and conditions of education in East Jerusalem over the next five years. Examining the objectives of this project offers some insight into the direction the education system is taking.
Finally, I distributed questionnaires to administrators of all the public schools in East Jerusalem to gather general information and statistical data.
Since free education is provided in East Jerusalem from kindergarten through twelfth grade, the State of Israel partly fulfills the requirements of the UDHR Article 26:1 and CRC Article 28:1a. However, as this report shows, Israel has not entirely fulfilled these requirements due to its failure to make such an education available to all East Jerusalem children. Furthermore, the Israeli government has not made vocational training generally available, apparently in violation of UDHR Article 26:1 and CRC Article 28:1b.
It is difficult to determine discrepancies between the financing of East and West Jerusalem schools. Schools in West Jerusalem receive a budget of NIS 780 (US$ 195) per student each year.[vi] According to the headmistress of al-Ma’mouniyeh Girls’ High School, her current annual budget is about NIS 250 (US$ 62.5) per student.[vii] However, West Jerusalem schools are under self-management while East Jerusalem schools apply to the municipality on a case-by-case basis for most of their monetary needs. The Jerusalem city budget offers no insight because it usually groups expenditures for East and West Jerusalem education together.
Qualitatively, however, the site visits and questionnaire responses show that educational conditions in East Jerusalem are severely substandard. Schools are in disrepair. There is insufficient classroom space and much of that inadequate. Pupils suffer from overcrowding. Sanitary conditions are terrible. Further, it appears that substantial discrepancies between conditions in East and West Jerusalem schools violate CRC Article 2. From the evidence, one could conclude that with respect to CRC Article 2:b, Israel has not only failed to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination…on the basis of status.” Israel itself is responsible for that discrimination.
It is important to remember that the victims of this discrimination are Palestinian youth, primarily children age five to eighteen years. The state of Israel has done, and continues to do, a tremendous disservice to Palestinian children by allowing the schools to fall into disrepair and by failing to provide proper educational facilities for a large portion of the student population. It is for the benefit of these children that these conditions must be improved and to them that I dedicate this report.
[i] Department of International Relations at the Orient House. Forced Eviction and Dispossession of Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem by Current Israeli Policies. Jerusalem, February 2000. pp. 16-18.
[ii] Al-Sharabati, Isa. “School Dropouts: Who’s Responsible?” The Jerusalem Times. Jerusalem, March 24, 2000.
[iii] The Dal Committee report was submitted to the government in the summer of 1998. Its contents were concealed from the public for a year, and publication of the report was allowed in August 1999. The findings were published in Ha’aretz newspaper. See Sa’ar, Rali. “Report: East Jerusalem Schools Substandard.” Ha’aretz daily newspaper. August 10, 1999.
[iv] Phone interview with Tsipi Erbaz, June 26, 2000.
[v] For more information about human rights education in the current Palestinian and Israeli curricula, see Vaelloso, Agustin. Peace and Human Rights Education in the Middle East: Jewish and Palestinian Experiences. Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Netherlands, 1988.
[vi] Interview with Avi Selaá conducted on May 1, 2000.
[vii] Visit to al-Mamouniyeh Girls’ High School conducted on April 18, 2000