Report from the Field: A Pilot Project on the Teaching of Jewish Views of Evolution in Israel

Jun. 24, 2015

Source: International Journal of Jewish Education Research (IJJER), 2015 (8), 59 – 66


This paper is a response to Haim Shaked’s (“Israel's Official Policy with Regard to Teaching Evolution in Public Schools”, IJJER 7, July 2014) recent call for further attention to the issue of how evolution, and specifically Jewish views of evolution, should be taught in Israeli public schools. In this article we will present initial findings from a pilot project conducted in 2014. We will also share some of the dilemmas we confronted along the path of constructing and executing the pilot. While we agree with Shaked regarding the pressing need to address the issue of Jewish views of evolution within the Israeli school system, we offer a different approach as to how to best accomplish this end.


Our project accepts the charge offered by Shaked in his article that Israeli religious education can no longer ignore the seeming incongruities between evolution and Genesis, and that educators should help students bridge these gaps and illustrate that no conflict between religion and science necessarily exists. However, as described above, our pilot did not just present one perspective on the relationship between evolution and the biblical text, but rather presented three different perspectives on the matter. This approach piggybacks upon the current “biographical” turn in science and religion studies (e.g. Cantor & Brooke, 2000), and is also in line with philosopher of education Hanan Alexander’s (2015) recommendations regarding the need for “pedagogy of difference.” By attempting to present a number of rabbinical thinkers in their historical context we are experimenting to see if Brooke’s academic approach can be translated into the high school or teacher training classroom as a means of empowering teachers and students to delve deeper into the issues being discussed. While our pluralism stems from pragmatism to a large degree, because we argue that it is the best way to reach students who currently feel antagonism towards evolution, it also offers a novel model with which to respond to the challenge presented by Shaked, and we look forward to future opportunities to analyze this model further. 

Updated: Jul. 22, 2015