SAUDI ARABIA - Quietly Changing Textbooks

Arno Froese

A report released from the Israel- and London-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), which mainly monitors how Israel and Jews are portrayed in education texts, found “almost all examples portraying Christians and Jews in a negative manner” were removed from the latest Saudi textbooks, building on trends seen in previous years. 

Prominent examples removed include implications “that Jews and Christians are the enemies of Islam,” or that “Jews and Christians are criticized for having ‘destroyed and distorted’ the Torah and Gospel,” according to the study. 

In the 2022-23 curriculum, a lesson on patriotic poetry removed an example of “opposing the Jewish settlement of Palestine.” A high school social studies textbook no longer contains a section describing the positive results of the First Intifada, the late 1980s Palestinian uprising against Israel. And one textbook “removed an entire chapter addressing the Palestinian cause.” 

IMPACT-se observed that new content in Saudi textbooks also criticizes certain Islamist groups such as Hezbollah, ISIS, al Qaeda, Houthi militias and the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Aziz Alghashian, a researcher on Saudi foreign policy and its ties with Israel, said the kingdom is “undergoing a change in its relationship with Islam.” 

Elie Podeh, a professor at the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, who has extensively studied educational systems in the region, said the changes are part of a “very long process” of moderation. 

“It’s not a coincidence. It is a kind of a policy from above and I think that if you combine the two trends, fighting extremism and the other one is, Israel gradually being more accepted as a player in the Middle East. Then you can understand why we are seeing those changes in the education system,” Podeh said., 19 June 2023

Arno's Commentary

Slowly but surely, the Arab world is turning from fanatism to factuality. Israel is there to stay; she has become a powerhouse, not only militarily, but technologically. For example, parched Middle Eastern countries are in urgent need of Israel’s expertise relating to the efficient use of water and turning sea water into potable water.

For the future of the earth, Zechariah 14:9 proclaims: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” And for Israel: “And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (verse 11).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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