Israeli schools' history lessons create good soldiers, says pundit

Historians in the News
tags: Israel



Best wishes to the 11th-grade pupils taking their matriculation exam in history Thursday morning. May they have the best of luck. They aren’t to blame for the warped structure of their curriculum and the unreasonable mix of material.

History is a compulsory subject for matriculation. Thirty percent of the final grade in history is based on a paper about the Holocaust that the student writes. The other 70 percent is based on the score on the matriculation exam, the material for which could be given the umbrella name “Resurrection.” Here is a brief history of time according to the Israeli education system.

The material for study is divided into several sections, starting with the Second Temple period, under the title “From a People of the Temple to People of the Book.” It goes on to nationalism and Zionism (“building a nation in the Middle East”), and from there to the British Mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel’s wars are given a hefty chapter. The War of Independence is mandatory reading, followed by either the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War. The kids memorize the reasons, the results, the number of casualties and the ramifications, too. The peace agreement with Egypt, for example, perhaps the State of Israel’s greatest achievement since its establishment, is mentioned as an aside, as one of the outcomes of the Yom Kippur War.

That is the revamped study program launched in 2014, constructed laboriously by people with good intentions. The rationale was termed “a proper combination of general history with Jewish history,” but due diligence shows disheartening results. The root of the problem lies in dosage, proportion and bias. General world subjects are viewed through the narrow prism of the Jewish world. For instance, decolonization is taught through what happened in Iraq. The average pupil might grasp decolonization as a bad thing, since after it came the “Farhud” – riots against the Jews of Baghdad. The Roman Empire, a sweeping historical phenomenon that had great influence over the development of human culture, is mentioned in the context of people and rebellions in the tiny backwater province of Judea. It’s like looking at the world and its wonders through the hole of a straw. ...




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