Susan Hattis Rolef: The Importance of History in Israel

Roundup: Talking About History

Susan Hattis Rolef teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.

Last Tuesday Channel 10’s investigative TV program Hamakor (The Source) broadcast a report on the syllabi being taught in the national school system, with a special emphasis on history.

The report concluded that the history syllabi are antiquated and lopsided, and that the graduates of the education system are completely ignorant with regard to many important world developments, events and personalities, but highly proficient (at least until two minutes after the matriculation exam) regarding rather esoteric details from Jewish history, such as the dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees in the period of the Second Temple on when one starts counting the Omer.

Of course, in a complex society such as ours it is no simple matter to reach agreement as to the balance that should be struck between world history and Jewish history, as to what is important and relevant and what is not, or what life lessons one ought to draw from the study of history.

But what is still worse is that too many people think that with so much information available, it is more important to teach children how and where to find information than to confer knowledge – as if creating a solid frame of reference for our youths is a trivial matter.

I got thinking about the importance of knowing history and learning from history after reading a recent blog by Professor Aviad Kleinberg, from which it emerged that in answer to a question about historical leaders who impressed him, Binyamin Netanyahu answered: Hannibal.


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