Wednesday, May 08, 2013

why don't our chutz la'aretz schools teach more about Zionism?

We do a horrible job we in chutz la’aretz of educating our children about the modern State of Israel.  My kids would not even know today is Yom Yerushalayim if I did not tell them.  We teach our children Tanach, Torah, gemara, all kinds of secular subjects, there are now required classes in “churban Europa,” as it is known, but I know of few yeshivos/yeshivot that require students to study the history of Zionism and the modern State of Israel, much less make an effort to explain the theological significance of Jewish sovereignty and the meaning of religious nationalism and the varying hashkafic attitudes toward the State.  I mean a serious discsussion of the issues and a study of history, not eating a blue and white cookie and having a chagiga.  Why is this so? 

1) Fear – we are afraid to teach subjects where there is a controversy or a diversity of legitimate views.  Issues always have to be boiled down to black vs. white and for all else, ask your Rav.  As a result, we produce students who see things in black and white, who are intolerant of other viewpoints other than the one they learn as "correct," who cannot weigh the pros and cons of issues without being spoonfed a "right" answer.  You can’t reduce any discussion of Eretz Yisrael to simple dichotomies.   

2) Ignorance – teachers know little more than their students about certain topics, this among them, in part because they came though the same broken system that they are now perpetuating.

3) It doesn’t matter enough – we equate love for Eretz Yisrael with love for Am Yisrael, in the sense of caring about Jewish life.  That is certainly important, but that should not eclipse a discussion of Jewish nationalism as an independent value (or whether you agree with such a thing or not and why).  When people talk about “existential issues” in the context of discussing Israel, they mean, for example, the threat Iranian missiles, not “existential” in the philosophical sense.  Questions like, for example, whether you view the State as aschalta d’geulah and what that term means, are great for armchair philosophizing, but are not pressing for a solution any time soon, so think this tzad is right or think that side is right, it can all be cavalierly dismissed as not really relevant. 


  1. great unknown2:36 PM

    a) It's not in our mesorah. A hundred years ago nobody talked about the State of Israel.

    b) It might lead students to do research using uncensored sources. They might discover that the Chovevei Zion included some significant gedolim.

    Or that the anti-Medina attitude of the Agudah fifty years ago was as virulent as Satmar's today.
    [I was in Israel with my Father, zt"l, when the Agudah had a Knessia Gedola in the mid 60s. We went to visit Kerem B'Yavneh. One of the Roshei Yeshiva there showed my Father a letter from Rav Ruderman stating that he had planned on visiting their Yeshiva, but because he was there on the Agudah's dime, it was inappropriate.]

    c) Or they might begin suspecting that the yeshiva attitude towards the Medina correlates directly, and exponentially, to the funding they receive.

    Can't have that, now, can we.

  2. Because the mechanchim who would do the best job of teaching about Zionism left America.

    1. Lack of competent mechanchim has never restrained yeshivot in other areas.