Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Bible In Israeli Education

A bit of "trivia" from this year's International Youth Bible Contest:
  1. The first prize was won by a female high school student.
  2. The three top winners are all Israeli high school students.
  3. Two of the top three winners come from families with a tradition of winning the Bible Contest.
  4. Two of the top three winners are studying in non-religious high schools.

I challenge you to think a bit and guess which Israeli high school education framework is missing.

Nu, do you know?  The key to guessing this correctly is to know what the three basic education frameworks are:
  • non-religious high schools
  • ulpanot, girls religious high schools
  • boys religious yeshiva high schools, even if the school itself doesn't like to call itself by the secular term "high school"
The winner is Or  Ashual.  She's a girl; yes, Or is sometimes a boy's name, too.  That means that this year the yeshiva high schools came out looking bad.  None of the top three winners come from that system.

One thing should be clear.  Nobody interested in competing in the contest with a chance of winning can count on their high school to prepare them.  It takes a lot of extra work and oodles of dedication.  Each year the contest focuses on a different aspect of the Bible. 

Also, the questions aren't simple test questions.  One has to learn how to understand and answer what the question is actually asking.  That's a skill in itself besides the material the teens must learn better than well.

Going back to the boys education.  In most yeshivot and religious high schools TaNaCh, Bible is not a priority subject.  In the yeshiva high school where I used to teach Bible was taught during the secular studies part of the day.  It wasn't considered a religious subject.  That always bothered me.  The afternoon was so jam-packed with Math, English, History, Science, Grammar, Computers, Literature etc that the Holy Bible got lost in the shuffle.  Bible should be a daily class in the middle of their morning G'morah study time in the Beit Medrash.

Our Bible is our history and the pledge by G-d giving us this Land.  It belongs to all Jews, the Bible and the Land.  I'm overjoyed that there are Israelis of all levels of Jewish observance enjoying the study of the Bible.  I hope that Elad Nachshon's and Avner Netanyahu's successes in the contest will encourage their high shcool friends to study our Bible.  It belongs to us all


Batya said...

Yes, Keli, you're missing something. Our Bible is holy; it's not the Iliad.

Hadassa said...

Keli, the Tanach isn't a history book, although there is much history in it. Tora literally means law, and the rest of the Tanach has been recorded to teach us how to live, or not to live. There is a big problem in non-religious schools with the Tanach being taught as history (at best). Students relate to the Tanach like most students relate to ancient history - BORING! Instead of realizing the holiness of the Tanach and the relevance to their own lives, students are interested in it as much as most students are interested in ancient Greek studies. The Tora is a "Tora of life", not something of the past.
Rav Kahane, ztz"l, hy"d, said that the lack of Tanach classes in yeshivot causes a big problem because students lack awareness of what it means to be Jewish, like our ancestors were before being sent to the Diaspora as a punishment. Jews farm. Jews fight. Jews rule their own country. Most Jews don't sit in yeshiva all day long. Of course Jews can't properly farm, fight or rule a country unless they've learned the laws, but not all Jews are supposed to sit in yeshiva all day.
Back to the contest: What is the value of learning the answers to the Bible Contest questions when most of the participants have no intention of following any of laws or of following the example of our righteous ancestors?
Many people have said that the contest cheapens the Tanach. I don't know enough about it to give a qualified opinion.

Keli Ata said...

Hanging my head:(

And I didn't convey accurately what I wanted to, either:(

As for the contest--anything that promotes Torah knowledge is a good thing.

Batya said...

There are also some amazing lessons about leadership and life we can learn from the Tanach. Politics, amazing, fascinating.

ellen said...

A lack of and grounding and education in Tanach has made our youth (and adults) vulnerable to Christian missionaries.

Batya said...

Jewish excellent point. thanks

Hadassa said...

Keli, did you mean that the Bible should be taken literally (i.e. it's not a fairy tale) and that putting it with math and science it makes it "real" whereas filing it under "religion" separates it from reality? I can see where you're coming from.
In Israel religion, politics, reality, the army, the past and the future are totally inseparable. It's a different world here in the Holy Land.

Yes, good point Jewish! Jews who work in the anti-missionary field advise the untrained not to argue with missionaries because they will almost certainly "know the Bible" much, much better.

Batya said...

xians base their legitimacy on the bible, quoting and distorting. It's Pikuach Nefesh for the Jewish People to study the Bible very seriously.

Keli Ata said...

Yes Hadassa yes!!!

Thank you very much for understanding:) I really appreciate:) :)

THANK YOU! That is exactly what I was trying to say:)

Hadassa said...

It's always best to strive for clarifications. The Jewish people would be lost without the Talmud, or any of the other halachic compilations of clarifications.

Batya said...

A well-rounded complete Jewish education includes them all. What's horrifying for me is that many yeshivot and one-year programs don't include Bible in the mandatory curriculum ditto for Hebrew.

Imagine, being in Israel for a few months and not learning the Bible and seeing/touring the major historic sites where our history happened. That is the situation for most foreign students.

My investigations reveal that they don't use Hebrew nor learn it as a required subject. Years ago, foreign students shopped in small neighborhood grocery stores and interacted with Hebrew speaking Israelis. Now they shop in supermarkets in English speaking ghettos.

Hadassa said...

Touring Israel? For what? Studying is more important. Makes you wonder why they bothered to come to Israel.
Hebrew? The program directors prefer that the students spend their limited time on "more important" subjects. I have never understood that policy. Hebrew is a phonetic language rendering it not difficult to learn and no religious subjects can be learned properly by reading text in translation. Perhaps the parents would be upset if their children learned Hebrew, felt at home and wanted to stay... I read that a program in Beit El was somehow stopped because parents were angry that their children decided to stay in Israel after the program's end. A rabbi posted a comment stating that their success was their downfall.
P.S. Hebrew is the language of the Tziyonim.

Batya said...

It's a real challenge to create a Hebrew curriculum of a dozen years of schooling after which the students can't function in the language. That's what happens in the American Jewish Day Schools, a shanda, disgrace. Anything to keep their darlings in America and undmine National Jewish unity.