More than 165,000 Israeli students started first grade today, as 2.3 million students began the academic school year in 5,000-plus schools. The upcoming graduating class of high school seniors has 131,000 students. By comparison, 188,000 are starting kindergarten. Instructing all the students are nearly 200,000 teachers and supporting staff.

Israel’s Education Ministry themed the school year “Unity in Israeli Society.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett took to Facebook to wish all incoming students well and issued a press release highlighting diversity in Israeli society. “The state education system is home to all Israeli students: Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox. They are all my children. Every child in the State of Israel deserves an excellent education and fair opportunity. The coming school year will be held under the banner of unity.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the Breuer state religious elementary school in Yad Binyamin for its annual opening ceremony. He joked with the students and discussed his own education as a boy in Israel. “But the most important thing was to read because if you can read, everything opens up before you. I loved reading very much and more than anything else, I loved reading the Bible and history.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, taking part in the first day of school in Netivot, told the children: “I want to tell you boys and girls, you can be prime ministers, and, of course, presidents of the country. You can be ministers or Knesset members. … The moment I entered school I will never forget the teacher who taught me in first grade.”

“The boys and girls here are the future of the State of Israel,” said Rivlin. “Soon, the young generation that grew up in Netivot will lead the State of Israel.”