The future of our children

"The biggest disservice done to our religion was the dividing of our school system into mamlachti (“state”) and mamlachti dati (“state religious”)."

Students (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(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 spiritual education.
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.
I believe 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 excellent teachers.
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.
Our children should be taught that there is something we all share as Jews, from those who wear furtrimmed shtreimels to those who go bareheaded.
We share 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.
We should 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 minutes.
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 possession.
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.The 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