Israel education minister pushes Hebron school visits

AFP , Wednesday 16 Feb 2011

A Controversial Israeli plan to send School students trips to the Ibrahimi Mosque site, expects to increase the tension between the Palestinian and settlers in West Bank

Israel's education minister is proposing sending Israeli children on school trips to the flashpoint Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank town of Hebron, he said on Wednesday.

The site, revered by both Jews and Muslims, is one of the most hotly contested sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plan has sparked opposition within Israel.

"I almost don't understand why I even have to explain why visiting Hebron is crucial to understanding our Jewish heritage," Education Minister Gideon Saar told public radio.

The shrine,  lies in the heart of Hebron, one of the most tense sites in the occupied West Bank.

Opponents said the plan was political and aimed at cementing Israel's hold on the divided city.

"I don't feel Gideon Saar is my education minister," Ze'ev Degani, the head of a leading school in the town of Herzliya, told the radio.

Several hundred Jews have settled in the heart of Hebron near the Ibrahimi Mosque under heavy military protection. More than 160,000 Palestinians live in Hebron, from which the Israeli army partially withdrew in 1998.

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