Principal of Oldest Israeli High School Quits Over Ban on Anti-Draft Protest

The Tel Aviv school principal Gymnasia Herzliya, Zeev Degani, announced his resignation Sunday after the school board canceled a planned event at which some 200 12th graders and alumni intended to announce their refusal to serve in the occupation army. In the end, the event took place on the school’s grounds, but Degani did not retract his resignation.

The rally held at Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel-Aviv, Sunday, September 3, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

On Saturday, the school’s board voted against holding the event, called “Youth Against Dictatorship,” which was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Approximately 200 teenagers from various schools were planning to declare their refusal to enlist in the army in protest of the far-right government and the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Students say they will refuse to serve in the Israeli army “due to the ongoing dictatorship in the occupied territories, and the developing dictatorship inside Israel.”

The Youth Against Dictatorship group, which has been rallying teenagers to refuse to serve in the IDF, had planned to “take over” the famous institution in protest of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy. “Starting in the afternoon [of Sept. 3], Youth Against Dictatorship activists will take over the Herzliya Gymnasium in Tel Aviv,” the organization announced last week. “Open classes will be held on the subject of activism and social struggles, led by representatives of Mesarvot (network supporting Israeli youth refusers), Breaking the Silence, Banki-Shabiba (Israeli Young Communist Guard) and residents of occupied Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.”

On Friday, the Director General of the Education Ministry Meir Shimoni sent a letter to the high school’s administration urging them not to host the event. He characterized it as a “contentious activity that doesn’t align with the Director-General’s circular.” Shimoni also called the institution’s management to “rethink the event’s presence within the educational institution’s premises and the way it’s conducted to ensure it complies with the law.” He emphasized that “It’s crucial to underscore that a failure to adhere to the law and guidelines, including those mentioned earlier, may result in various consequences, including the revocation of recognition and funding for the educational institution.”