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Teaching Ignorance. A Film by Tamara Erde    cover photo

Teaching Ignorance. A Film by Tamara Erde 2015

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films Ltd., P.O.Box 7153, Jerusalem, 91071, ISRAEL
Produced by Julien Loron-Saya
Directed by Tamara Erde
DVD , color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
Education, Israel, West Bank

Date Entered: 10/28/2016

Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA

This reviewer could not even fill in the subject line above without encountering a conflict over the correct terminology for that part of the Palestinian Territories covered by this film. The choices included “West Bank,” “Palestinian Territories,” and “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Although some people and groups might dispute the choice she made, West Bank is more accurate than either of the others, because those terms include the Gaza Strip, which is not within the scope of this film.

Over a period of a year, Director Erde conducted interviews with teachers and students in that part of the Middle East where Israelis and Palestinians live: some are Israeli Jews, some are Israeli Arabs, some are West Bank Palestinians, and some are Israeli settlers. Each teacher expresses deep feelings that he/she must teach their students about their history—both political and religious—but few seem satisfied with the policies of their education ministries on what is to be taught and how it should be taught. Moreover, it is clear there is nothing simple about that history—there are multiple histories, not just one. What is being taught depends on where the teaching happens and who does the teaching. No consensus is reflected either by the teachers or their students.

Because the dialog is in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, subtitles are essential for English-speakers to follow it and the subtitles leave much to be desired. None are provided for spoken English, although the heavily accented English of some speakers is hard to understand. Subtitles for the Hebrew and Arabic are sometimes difficult to read against the background images, and many of them do not remain on the screen long enough for a viewer to finish reading. Both of these issues make the film far less effective than it might be as well as frustrating for a serious viewer.

Despite these problems, Teaching Ignorance has an important story to tell, especially to viewers who do not live in Israel’s neighborhood. Students in the West Bank are taught they will not be subject to Israeli occupation forever and they can make a difference in the effort to recover their lands. Students in the Israeli settlements are taught that God gave them the land where they live and the Arabs/Palestinians should depart. Students in Israel proper are being taught they are rightful citizens of the State of Israel, but peace with their Arab and Palestinian neighbors would be good if it could be achieved. At the same time, they are prepared from an early age to serve in the State’s military. Even in a school situated in Israel’s Neve Shalom (Peace Village or, literally, Oasis of Peace), the two teachers of the class being filmed—one Jewish, one Arab—do not agree on one interpretation of the Israeli history they teach. The difference, though, is that they each have their say in what is taught.