Netanyahu tells a little lie that says a lot about him

On August 2 Raviv Drucker, a prominent and widely respected Israeli journalist, published the following status on his Facebook wall:

Yesterday the prime minister made the following pre-recorded statement:

“At this very moment a 16-year-old girl is fighting for her life at a Jerusalem hospital. She is a student at the high school near the university. That is the high school I attended. It is the school my children and my friends’ children attended.”

This is not the most important point in the world during these awful days — it’s not even close — but still, Netanyahu attended the high school near the university? Really? Didn’t he attend high school in the United States? Could it be that he’s manufacturing an affiliation with an elite school he never attended?

I inquired at the prime minister’s office. They told me that Netanyahu attended grade 7 and half of grade 9 at a school in the neighborhood of Omariya, which later on moved to its present location near the university. Well, I checked with those who are familiar with the school (and I invite Jerusalemites to add the facts they know in the comments) and this is what they told me: the school in Omariya is an elementary school. It never became the high school near the university. The Beit Kerem high school is the one that changed its location and became the one near the university later on. Pupils who finished elementary school in Omariya went on to attend various high schools but not the elite one near the university.

A bit of context: The 16-year-old girl who was fighting for her life was named Shira Banki, and she has since died. She was mortally stabbed by the ultra-Orthodox man who went on a rampage with a knife at the Jerusalem Pride parade on July 30, stabbing six people altogether. One day after the attack in Jerusalem, masked men believed to be extremist West Bank settlers entered the Palestinian village of Duma late at night and threw firebombs into homes while its inhabitants were sleeping. An 18-month-old baby named Ali Saad Dawabsha died in the fire, while his parents and four-year-old brother were severely burned and remain in hospital, in critical condition. That is what Drucker means with his reference to “these awful days.”

The school near the university is commonly called “Leyada” (“leyad” means “near”). Its official name is The Hebrew University Secondary School and it is a semi-private school that has produced some notable graduates. Among them are former Supreme Court president and Yale Law School professor Aharon Barak, renowned author David Grossman, and former president Yitzhak Navon. The great Jewish intellectual Yeshayahu Lebowitz was once on faculty at Leyada.

It is  common knowledge that Netanyahu spent his high school years in the United States. It’s a fact he has mentioned on several occasions, usually in order to ingratiate himself with American audiences. It’s even on his Wikipedia page (attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School in Philadelphia). That’s what makes this particular lie, even from a man who is notorious for his uneasy relationship with the truth, so interesting and telling. On the one hand he demonstrates  narcissism and insecurity in his rush to make the tragic story of Shira Banki a bit about him, while also asserting that he, too, attended the famous Jerusalem high school that all the smart kids went to. And on the other hand it demonstrates contempt for the people he’s addressing.

Because surely Raviv Drucker is not the only person to remember that Netanyahu attended high school in the United States, and certainly anyone who grew up in West Jerusalem during the 1950s and 1960s knows the name and location of every elementary and high school in the city. This relatively insignificant lie of Netanyahu’s is just so telling.

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