June 24, 2010
The educational curriculum in state-run institutions for this coming school year will include a new subject: Jewish culture and tradition. Initially, the subject will be taught in grades 6-8 for a period of two hours per week, and then expanded to additional grades.
The new subject will include lessons on Jewish culture, the Hebrew calendar and "the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel." In addition, students in the sixth grade will be required to learn the weekly Torah portion; students in seventh grade will be taught the order of prayers in the Jewish liturgy; eighth graders will undergo instruction in Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers ); and ninth graders will delve into Theodor Herzl's novel "Altneuland." Six books from the Jewish-Zionist bookshelf will be taught throughout these years and students will have direct encounters with complete classical works.
Critics, however, are warning that the syllabus is problematic. According to one professor, the choice of holy texts to be taught creates "an opening for dangerous indoctrination."
The new curriculum will also mandate that all students learn about Israeli culture. This addition is a central element of a policy championed by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who since taking office has stated as a priority the inculcation of Jewish and Zionist values in Israeli schools.
The new curriculum aims to increase students' familiarity with Jewish culture and to give them a clear picture of a historical timeline of the Jewish people and of Zionism. The subject is designed to shape the students' identity and strengthen the sense of belonging to the nation, the state and Jewish culture
Beginning this fall the curriculum will be considered under the category of "core curriculum subjects" that students from all state-sanctioned institutions are obligated to study.