Textbooks of history with the Palestinian interpretation of events that took place in May 1948 have been released in Israel. The books were published in Arabic for only one class in Arabic schools of the country. The new book has stirred up quite a controversty in the Israeli society. The right-wing parties blame the Education Ministry for masochism, Arabic human rights activists say that such information should have appeared long ago so that Arab children living in Israel could learn the Palestinian interpretation of the May 1948 events from reliable sources, but not from neighbors’ stories that sometimes disagree with the school curriculum.
Some people say that it is time to make new manuals of history for Jewish schools as well to let Israeli children know how their Arab neighbors take the epoch-making events in the history of Israel. Countrymen participate in parliamentary elections but regularly celebrate the day of May 14, the day of Israel’s declaration as their personal tragedy. However, the fact has never been mentioned in manuals of history until recently. In a word, this new textbook tells history interpreted against the background of the Israeli reality. People who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union republics could tell a lot to Israelis in this connection. Former Soviets never took seriously what was written in Soviet manuals of history and still wonderfully got along with the contradiction between the school curriculum and stories they could hear from friends and relatives. Those who would not get along with it desired to leave the country that looked so perfectly polished in school textbooks. These people can also tell that books on history started radically changing after the breakup of the USSR. But many people still saw history of the country not the way it was in reality but the way it was given in school textbooks with portraits of Lenin and Stalin.
It is probably convenient to believe in history that can not be challenged. Just decide what you want to believe, the truth told by school teachers or stories you have heard from parents. The situation with the Israeli manual of history is unique. The new textbook has revealed that what was good for some people was in fact an absolute crash for others. And with the years the causes of the crash were so intricately interpreted that it is now hardly possible to get to the truth.
The advantage of a normal democratic society makes it possible to establish truth just by stating various versions of some event. It is unlikely that pupils will trust school teachers if what they say absolutely disagrees with stories they can hear from relatives. The edition of this new manual of history may be a contradictory decision of the Israeli Education Ministry. But the very idea to tell a new version of what school children know rather well is the demonstration of strength not weakness. This seriously differs from the previously practiced ways when authorities thrust a stagnant manual of history upon the society that gives the same interpretation of historic events to several generations.
Translated by Maria Gousseva