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August 26, 1994 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-08-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

D 1'ITM6 • UN10t11: t1:1\16 • W1ll1\161CAL DOI.La





Jewish Ignorance
Among Israel Youth



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M.

Education panel finds that the secular majority of
young Israelis know little and care little about their
heritage.

I
I

f it's any consolation, Israel

also is being forced to admit it
has a problem with Jewish
identity — one that's been get-
ting worse over the decades and
which affects the young most of
all. As in the Diaspora, Israel has
begun to focus on one of the most
glaring aspects of the problem —
Jewish education.
This embarrassing truth —
that by and large, the secular ma-
jority of young people in this
country know little and seem to
care little about Jewish heritage
— is starting to come out into the
open. When Jewish thinkers and
leaders from around the world
gathered in Jerusalem last June
for the "Dialogue With the Pres-
ident," a number of Israeli par-
ticipants made the point, frankly
and sorrowfully.
Uriel Simon, a professor of
Bible Studies at Bar-Ilan Uni-
versity, noted that the secular
Zionists who built this country
studied the Hebrew Scriptures
as the foundation document of
their cause — to create a Jewish
civilization in the ancient land
and in the ancient tongue. "This
Zionist interpretation of the Bible,
to my sadness, is gone. People
don't want to know, they aren't
interested," said Professor Simon.
The secular young not only
aren't interested in the Bible,
they couldn't care less about the
Talmud, about Jewish literature,
Jewish history, the Land of Is-
rael, the development of Hebrew.
The roughly two-thirds of Israeli
pupils who attend secular public
schools (the rest go to public reli-
gious or private Orthodox schools)
are not only indifferent to Jewish
education, they're out and out
hostile to it, and the schools have
basically thrown up their hands.
This was the finding of a pan-
el of prestigious educators who,
at the behest of the Education
Ministry, examined Jewish edu-
cation in the public schools and
came out with their depressing
conclusions this month.
The committee, headed by
Haifa University rector Aliza
Shenhar, put part of the blame
on general Western trends that
also have swept Israel, such as
"the decline of ideology," "the rise
of the consumer society," "the
prestige and attraction of science
and technology."
But it also blamed a particu-
larly Israeli phenomenon — the

worsening kulturkampf between
the religious and non-religious —
for the "uncertainty, dissension,
ignorance and extremism" sur-
rounding Jewish education for
the more than 1 million pupils in
the secular schools. It all added
up, the panel concluded, to "a real
threat against Israeli society and
its chances to create a broadly in-
tegrated culture."
The committee found that He-
brew, Jewish history, literature,
folklore, archaeology and such
are on a long decline in the secu-
lar public schools because few
pupils take the courses and few
instructors are training to teach
them. There are plenty of Bible
and Talmud instructors, but now
they're overwhelmingly Ortho-
dox and they teach in a rote, un-
critical fashion that secular
students reject.
Doron Tohar, a junior at Kiry-
at Sharett High School in Holon,
says he took Bible, Talmud and

"I don't know
anybody, either from
my high school or
from any other, who
likes Jewish
studies."

—Doron Tohar, high school junior

Jewish history because they were
required, but got little out of
them. "The teaching was very
dry. We just went over some bor-
ing passages and memorized the
information," he said, noting that
his teachers happened to be non-
religious.
A computers major, Doron
added that university admissions
policy in Israel gives priority to
achievement in math and science,
not to such "soft" subjects as Jew-
ish studies, so there's no practi-
cal reason to concentrate on it.
"All my friends feel the same
way," he said. "I don't know any-
body, either from my high school
or from any other, who likes Jew-,
ish studies."
Panel member Naomi Sroka,
assistant principal of Haifa's pres-
tigious Reali High School, said
"the number of teachers who are
able to teach the Jewish heritage
in a way that will interest secu-

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