Israel to introduce revamped Jewish studies curriculum in state schools

Source: Ha’aretz, 6-24-10

The educational curriculum in state-run institutions for this coming school year will include a new subject: Jewish culture and tradition. Initially, the subject will be taught in grades 6-8 for a period of two hours per week, and then expanded to additional grades.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar
Photo by: Emil Salman

The new subject will include lessons on Jewish culture, the Hebrew calendar and “the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel.” In addition, students in the sixth grade will be required to learn the weekly Torah portion; students in seventh grade will be taught the order of prayers in the Jewish liturgy; eighth graders will undergo instruction in Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers ); and ninth graders will delve into Theodor Herzl’s novel “Altneuland.”

“Six books from the Jewish-Zionist bookshelf will be taught throughout these years and students will have direct encounters with complete classical works,” said Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom, who heads the educational steering committee in charge of administering the new coursework.

Critics, however, are warning that the syllabus is problematic. According to one professor, the choice of holy texts to be taught creates “an opening for dangerous indoctrination.”

“Pirkei Avot and the weekly Torah portion are part of the canons of religious society, so why should a secular youth study these?” said Bar-Ilan University Professor Avi Sagi. “This will only further alienate [students] from these subjects.”…READ MORE

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