In one of the Shabbat leaflets of last week, I stumbled across a highly intriguing article that told me something I had no clue about. Apparently, a new Israeli incentive lengthened the school day in kindergartens in “socially weak” regions until half past
3 in the afternoon, vs. half past 1 as it used to be. This was done in order to encourage mothers of poorer families to work longer hours, something they wouldn’t always be able to do if they had to pay for optional hours in the kindergarten.
The problem? Mothers who live in the areas where the new law has come into effect, and who deliberately chose to stay home or work mornings only in order to be able to pick up their children from kindergarten at midday, now aren’t allowed to do so. Apparently, our Big Wise Ministry of Education made a collective decision stating there are regions where children are better off spending as many hours as possible in kindergarten and away from their parents.
It may not seem like such a big deal to some, but it is. Two hours of a productive portion of a day are a lot for a little child, and it may make quite a difference as in how a child spends them, especially if those two hours include a gathering for a family lunch at home, vs. institutional food of doubtful quality served in kindergarten.
Here’s the catch: there are socially problematic regions in
, indeed (one would have to be blind not to be aware of that), and there are, unfortunately, homes where children are treated poorly. In such instances, this government program insures some minimal level of proper care given to every child. But I cannot understand how it happens that normally functioning mothers are prevented from taking their little child home at a time they deem appropriate, just because they happen to live in an area where many families are struggling. In particular when we talk of religious families who come to live in such areas following a calling for community service. Israel
The most interesting part in all this, for me, is that in
, institutionalized education (unless parents specifically apply for permission to homeschool, which happens very rarely) is obligatory only from age 5, while here we are talking about children aged 3 and 4. Which means they don’t even have to be in kindergarten, by conventional law – but apparently, once their mothers choose to enroll them in a certain school, they no longer have a choice regarding the number of hours their child spends there. Israel
I suppose the reason I haven’t heard of this before is because mutiny has been mostly silent – mothers simply show up to take their children home early, rather than try and combat the system, and in many cases the kindergarten teachers understand, sympathize and try to cover things up in case of an inspection. However, to me it feels, as one of the mothers put it, that “our children are made into government property” (translation from Hebrew mine).
Here I feel the traces of what I call the Communist Influence. The modern state of
and its system of laws was built by non-religious Jews, many of them from Russian origin and highly influenced by communism. This explains the unheard-of phenomenon of sending most 18-year-old girls to the army, and also the doctrine which states learning must only happen in properly authorized institutions. According to Wikipedia, only about a few dozen Israeli families homeschool, at least legally, although some may also do it unauthorized. According to Israel Home Education site, it's "probably hundreds of families". I hope that in future years, the dubious status of homeschooling in Israel is resolved, and parents, and not the government, will be in charge of their children's upbringing. I'm not saying many more will choose to homeschool full-time - that is unlikely. But it's worth to make an effort for every hour a child spends with his family. Israel