Where Have All the Miracles Gone? How Teachers Broach Biblical Miracles in Israeli Jewish National Schools

Jul. 10, 2015

Source: Religious education 


The current study will examine how teacher beliefs and ideologies are expressed in their teaching of biblical miracles. More specifically, we will explore how Israeli teachers in the national school system broach the topic of biblical miracles, and how their beliefs and ideologies help these educators navigate a path from the national curriculum to the classroom. As will be discussed at greater length the mandatory national (non religious) schools Bible curriculum includes many rich texts that address miracles across the various grade levels. The article will focus on three key areas: Initially, I will discuss the educational challenges that teachers in Israeli non-religious national schools confront in teaching miracles; second, I will present a mapping of educational approaches to teaching miracles that reflects a range of different ideologies and beliefs; and, in the final section, I will analyze recorded conversations with three teachers about how they present miracles and thereby expose their students to these foundational biblical texts.


This study assumes that teaching biblical texts about miracles in Israeli national schools fills an essential but challenging educational role. This challenge has faced Israeli education for over a century, and there is no reason to assume that it will dissipate over time. In addition, we appreciate the diverse range of teacher ideologies that inform this instruction, and the multiple ways that they shape, impact and drive the educational process. Furthermore, this study highlights the conflicts and dilemmas created by the various ideological demands that teachers face and thereby carries serious implications for multiple areas of instruction in Jewish education. Throughout the study we witnessed how teachers recognize and acknowledge their cultural, pedagogic and milieu identities and the tensions therein. These issues carry serious implications beyond Israeli Jewish educational setting and are relevant for parallel religious education settings worldwide. In that sense, these findings should play a key role in shaping preservice as well as inservice programs for other religious education settings. Finally, we observed teachers’ struggles with competing agendas and their ongoing deliberative processes to resolve these issues. This process sheds light on how Jewish Studies teachers make critical decisions about a host of religiously sensitive topics in the curriculum and what factors come into play in this process. The teachers’ candor and insightful comments reflect a level of sophistication and commitment that heightens the need to address these questions in open and constructive ways. In pondering these questions we find it helpful to note that the term miracle is drawn from the Latin miraculum, which is derived from mirari, to wonder. Thus the most general characterization of a miracle is that of an event that provokes wonder. As such, it is worth considering how we portray this sense of wonder in the context of Bible study for young Israeli Jewish students in the 21st century.

Updated: Jul. 27, 2016