In Israeli Textbooks, the Palestinians Are All but Invisible

"Neveh Daniel is a rural community,” says a textbook on Israeli society “narrated” by Shulamit, a 9-year-old telling about her family and home.

“The community is located in the Judea and Samaria region and belongs to the Gush Etzion Regional Council. Already in the Bible period, Jews lived in this area, and the Bible tells of various events that happened there. For example, this is where the patriarchs and matriarchs were buried, and here the stories of King David and the Book of Ruth took place.”

The 40-page textbook for fourth-graders, one of a series, is intended to provide a glimpse into various communities in Israeli society. But there’s one thing it overlooks: Shulamit’s Palestinian neighbors don’t have the same rights as the members of her family.

The only mention is four words at the end of a sentence: Between 1.7 million and 2.9 million Palestinians who live in “the region called Judea and Samaria,” the book says, “are not Israeli citizens.”

Aerial photo of West Bank showing Jewish settlements to the right of the separation wall and Palestinian homes to the left. Lefteris Pitarakis /AP

Israel’s control over millions of Palestinians isn’t part of the work’s message. In fact, according to a study by Prof. Avner Ben-Amos of Tel Aviv University's School of Education, the occupation is rarely a topic in schools.

The short book narrated by Shulamit is designed for pupils to “get to know a little about the religious way of life” and to learn about the importance of Jerusalem and values like “community life” and “mutual help.”

As Israel’s government considers annexing land in the West Bank, the country’s schools continue to use textbooks like “Shulamit’s” and maps without the Green Line, while taking the children on hikes in the West Bank.