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MKs visit schools to teach against incitement

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Itongadol.- Lawmakers traveled to schools around the country Thursday, to discourage children from online incitement, while teaching them the importance of freedom of expression.

MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) initiated the project as part of the Knesset’s activities celebrating its 67th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Knesset building. Before becoming an MK, Ben-Ari founded two centers for at-risk youth and held the youth portfolio as a Tel Aviv city councilwoman.

“In these days of wild incitement on social networks and harm to freedom of expression, it is especially important for MKs to reach students to talk about this topic,” Ben-Ari said. “Part of our job is to be an example for youth and to lead the battle against incitement and racism.”

Ben-Ari worked with the Education Ministry to prepare a lesson plan for the MKs to use, and they showed a video clip she helped prepare in October, showing MKs from across the political spectrum with inflammatory internet comments written about them.

The lesson plan explains the importance of freedom of expression and its limitations, teaching students about the difference between incitement and legitimate speech, and the MKs were encouraged to tell personal stories on the topic.

Ben-Ari also said the MKs can give the students an important civics lesson, since they “pledged to protect democracy and human rights in Israel.”

A total of 30 MKs from the opposition and coalition went to 30 schools, some on Thursday and some plan to go on Friday. Many chose schools that are close to their hearts, like MK Essawi Frej (Meretz), who went to the school in Kfar Kassem in which his wife is a teacher and MK Nurit Koren (Likud), who went to the school her four children attended.

MK Yael Cohen-Paran (Zionist Union) went to an agricultural school in her hometown Pardes Hana, and reported on Facebook that “it was fun to meet wonderful students. We had a lively debate between all the participants, and I can say that this was the first school I visited through this project, but definitely not the last.”

Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy visited the Tali School in Jerusalem and said: “Arguments, yes. Hatred and racism, no.”

Following the lesson, Levy wrote on Facebook that the message “is not only relevant to them. It is important for all of us to learn to respect different opinions and respect the pluralism in Israeli society, which is made up of many different groups and worldviews.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett commended the MKs for their efforts.

“The true path to unity between us is for everyone to say his or her opinion, and for us to learn to listen,” he said. “Who knows, maybe we will be convinced. In no case and never can an argument become violent. That is not our language, that is not the language of education.”

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