The Rosary Sisters’ High School in northeastern Jerusalem apologized following Palestinian protests over a May 26 graduation ceremony in which an Israeli flag was waved.
Irate parents stood up and protested at the sight of the Israeli flag, forcing a halt to the Catholic girls school’s ceremony. The presentation organizer tried to calm the crowd but to no avail.
The protest spread and Palestinian activists organized a march to the school in the well-to-do Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina while waving the PLO flag. They barricaded themselves inside the building that weekend and announced they wouldn’t leave until the principal resigned.
Neighborhood parents’ committees joined in, saying, “There is nothing that can justify the musical performance that included the Israeli flag. This is an insult to the residents of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian people.”
Observers say that the issue is really about the school’s identity. A year ago, the school’s principal, Sister Lucy Jadallah, decided to drop the Palestinian Authority curriculum in favor of the Israeli one.
“She realized that studying P.A. material and taking the Tawjiya exam [the general secondary education certificate matriculation examination in the P.A. and Jordan] leads the graduates to Palestinian or Arab universities, which in the end produce graduates who only know Arabic,” Elias Zarina, co-founder and community manager of the
Jerusalemite Initiative, an NGO empowering Arab-speaking Christians, told Makor Rishon.
“Young men and women who don’t know Hebrew don’t stay in Israel, increasing the Christian emigration from the country, which is still on the rise,” said Zarina, an Arab Christian resident of Jerusalem.
The proportion of Arab Christians in Jerusalem has dropped steadily, from 25% of the population in 1922 to about 2% today. In P.A.-controlled Bethlehem, the decline is still more dramatic. Seventy years ago, 90% of the city’s population was Christian. Today, it hovers around 12%.
The school’s curriculum decision may also have been motivated in part by its effort to maintain its Christian identity. Two years ago, the principal forbade students to wear the hijab, “perceived as a challenge to the Christian character of the school,” Israel Hayom reported.
However, the curriculum decision angered the P.A., which wants all Arab schools in eastern parts of Jerusalem, Christian included, teaching its course of study, which it views as one component in its effort to extend Palestinian control over sections of Israel’s capital.
Zarina said that the protest around the flag was an act of revenge against the school administration for its decision.
“In Facebook groups where discussions about the event took place, parents can be heard talking about pressure exerted by Palestinian organizations,” he said, listing Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah.
The P.A. Education Ministry said it would open an investigation into the incident, even though it has no authority to do so as the school is in Israeli territory and uses the Israeli curriculum.
The community is hardly monolithic in opposing the Israeli flag. Zarina posted openly to Facebook: “Israel is our homeland and those for whom our Christian values and the [Israeli] flag aren’t suitable shouldn’t send their children to study with us!
“The educational material of the P.A. is full of hate, racism, encouragement for terrorism and antisemitism,” he added.
The P.A. curriculum is notorious for its antisemitic and anti-Israel indoctrination. IMPACT-se (the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education), which analyzes curricula around the world, reports that “P.A. school textbooks have consistently shown a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects.”