(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
With the last school year just behind us, and the next still a long way off, it
is a good time to examine what, if anything, has been achieved in our children’s
Since our oft-quoted erstwhile education minister
stated sarcastically: “Men have been to the moon and we are still teaching our
children…” perhaps we should take another look at how the Jewish religion is
being taught in our schools and if, in some schools, it is being taught at all.
Everyone has an opinion on the growing polarization between the secular and the
religious in Israel, which in too many cases is turning into actual hatred.
People are stereotyped according to the color of their clothes (black being very
far from beautiful); the size and material of their “kippot” or, of course,
their lack of them.
I feel that the biggest disservice done to our
religion was the dividing of our school system into mamlachti (“state”) and
mamlachti dati (“state religious”).
It begins the process of polarization
and “us” and “them” from the most tender age. It teaches mutual distrust. The
educational accent is on the things that divide us rather than the many things
that unite us.
The secular regard the religious as primitive and
superstitious; the religious regard the secular as immoral.
there should be only one educational stream, but that it should offer the best
available in both worlds of learning, with highly-motivated, tolerant and
Neither the religious children nor the secular should
feel threatened by the other.
Judaism and Bible should be taught not as
subjects, but as a treasured heritage, the ideals of which are perfect, even
though sometimes men cannot measure up to them and pervert them.
children should be taught that there is something we all share as Jews, from
those who wear furtrimmed shtreimels to those who go bareheaded.
a mystery. We share a pride. We share a common heritage and a future destiny.m
We may choose to express our identity in different ways, but it is the same
identity. We are more than a religion or a state of mind. We are a people, a
nation, a race, a family, all descended from the first Jew Abraham, and one
tribal house, Israel.
And we should teach our children from sceptical
families that, far from being a series of legends and superstitions, every day
archaeology and science validate the writing of the Bible.
introduce them to the work of such brilliant scientists as Dr. Gerald Schroeder,
who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and lives in
Jerusalem. He is the author of Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery of
Harmony between Modern Science and the Bible (published by Bantam Books) which
explains, for example, how a clock at the “edge” of the universe would measure
the passage of one minute, while Earth-time experienced a million, million
Surely there are many things written in the Bible which today
may seem miracles to our limited understanding, but which tomorrow a superior
intelligence may be able to translate for us in a way that we can comprehend and
not need only to accept on faith, although faith in itself is a most wonderful
Our children should be exposed to all the greatest
scientists, writers, musicians and artists who have excelled, without
sacrificing their adherence to their religion.
The world, and
particularly Israel, is teeming with such role models who would inculcate
respect from both sides of the religious divide.
We are doing our
children a tremendous disservice. We are denying those from secular families the
opportunity of knowing at least the basics and beauty of Judaism before they
decide to reject it. This is their right as adults, but by not teaching them an
alternative as children, we are taking away their chance of making an informed
decision. We are also denying our religious children the excitement of an
interchange of ideas which, surely , is what education is all about.
writer is a freelance journalist, teacher of Creative Writing and author of 13
books , one of which has been made into a movie. Her daily blog can be read at