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Israel’s bizarre decision to give up on education - and its future

As Israelis, Palestinians and the rest of the world deal with the crimes of the occupation and the possibilities of one state or two – Israel’s choices in education show it has already decided to give up on the state that already exists

Ultra-Orthodox children in Jerusalem (photo: flickr / yoavelad)

Last week I came across a disturbing story, one of many recently, where Haredi school boys threw stones at secular Jewish school girls [Heb].

The schoolgirls were singing.

The story was only mentioned on a local news website and didn’t get much attention. In this climate, where Israel is becoming increasingly more nationalistic and more religious, stories like these just don’t surprise people any more.

Sure, the news has been dominated with stories of women having to sit in the back of the bus, or of rabbis who don’t want male soldiers to hear female soldiers singing at ceremonies and so on.

But what bothered me more about this particular incident was the age of the perpetrators. These were young boys or teenagers, already well versed on the issues of female singing and its dangers.

What this incident shows more than anything else, is the education factor and how it will change this country. And it shows how incidents like the one above are going to happen again, and again and again.

Much has been said on the demographics of the Haredi community and the pace at which it grows. But not many know of how huge an impact Haredi education already has on this state.

These Haredi rock-throwing boys learn in a Haredi school. That’s because there are four sectors to the Israeli education system: State, State-Religious, Arab, and ultra-Orthodox (Haredi). The major problem with this is that the level of study in the Arab and Haredi schools is much lower than in the state schools. And what makes the problem even worse, is that the level in the state schools themselves has never been lower.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on a presentation of Prof. Dan Ben David, of Tel Aviv university. Ben David, in my opinion, is one of Israel’s least-known heroes. For years the man has been screaming “fire!” about what is going on in the Israeli education system, and no one has been listening.

Ben David heads the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, and his publications are not only a source of amazing information for those who want to understand Israeli society better – they’re just plain shocking.

First, take a look at the figure below:

Figure 10 shows that in just 10 years, the number of students in Haredi schools went up by 57%, in Arab schools by 37%.

If these trends continue, by the year 2040 78% of primary school students will study in Haredi and Arab school systems, as the figure below shows.

Coincidentally, according to a report by Haaretz published today, the State religious schools seem to be turning more Haredi, as the number of gender-segregated religious schools in Israel tripled during past decade:

Gender segregation is in effect at 65 percent of the state-run religious elementary schools in Israel, according to data obtained by Haaretz from the Education Ministry’s elementary school supervision department. The figures show that boys and girls study together in only 140 religious elementary schools around the country, with the remaining schools strictly adhering to absolute gender separation – in some places starting in Grade 1, and elsewhere in Grades 3 or 4.

According to the former head of the Religious Education Administration, Dr. Mati Dagan, the situation just a decade ago was entirely different, with fewer than 25 percent of the religious elementary schools enforcing gender separation.

Even the Governer of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, is worried. At a recent conference on education Fischer said:

“It would all be OK of the level of education was similiar in each sector. but unfortunately that’s not the case. I had the privilege to be present at a meeting with OECD heads when we asked to join the organization. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar discussed the education system and pointed out this data. One of the state representatives said he doesn’t understand how we intend to build a nation if we have four different education systems with no connection between them. It’s a very grave and serious problem.”

Why is this so important? Well, if you thought Israel was going to keep churning out Nobel laureates and amazing start-ups forever – you’re wrong. Those times are slowly coming to an end. That generation will die off. Because right now, Israeli education has never been worse. The two figures below show exactly how bad it is. I hope you’re sitting down.

The figure above shows how Israel’s weakest students compared in PISA exams to the OECD’s weakest students. The answer? Israel’s are the weakest of the weak.

The figure above is basically the opposite. A comparison of the strongest students across the OECD. Here, Israel did slightly better. Second to last place, just above Spain.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend watching Ben David’s presentation from a few weeks ago – it’s one of the only clips I’ve found him on Youtube in English:

Israel’s problems, of course, don’t stop at grade schools. The higher education system is in total chaos. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear Manuel Trajtenberg, the chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education in Israel. Trajtenberg is more famous these days for heading the committee that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed to recommend measures for dealing with social inequality, as a result of the #J14 social protests.

Manuel Trajtenberg. Fighting the biggest brain drain in the West (photo: wikimedia commons)

Trajtenberg, like Ben David, is fighting a losing battle as well. Besides aging faculties, low results and more – Trajtenberg is fighting the biggest brain drain a Western country has ever seen.

The numbers are staggering (2007):

25% of active Israeli researchers reside in the U.S.(!!!). This is astonishing compared to other countries: Nearby Canada has “drained” only 12.5% of its faculty, Holland 4.3%, Italy 4.2%
33% of Israeli computer science researchers reside in the U.S.
28.7% of Israeli economists reside in the U.S.

What does all this mean? That Israel has decided what its national priorities are: Less basic and quality education. The ones that are educated are leaving because they can’t make it here, and they’re not coming back. Israel has given up.

Taking these conditions into consideration, the anti-democratic legislation, the nationalism and the religious coercion taking over Israel is not only well under way – it has a bright future.

So why should we be surprised they throw rocks at secular singing girls?

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    1. Ben Israel

      Having sent children through the gender-separated State Religious school system that Ha’aretz gave a bashing to, all I can say is that the report is poiltical propaganda, no more. Ha’aretz recently has been filling its pages with anti-religious hysteria for several weeks now, with Shocken apparently believing that this gov’t coalition can be brought down if enough nonsense like this is publicized every day.
      The fact is that it is true that the gender-separated State Religious schools are growing BUT THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH “HAREDIZATION”. I am Orthodox/religious but I am not Haredi and I did not want Haredi education for my children. These schools are NOT Haredi, they teach secular subjects and these student, when they reach high-school age, end up with the highest Bagrut (matriculation) scores in the country. Gender-separation is not “Haredization” but is rather a “halachic” issue, and in addition, it also gives girls a better chance in their studies, as has been found in gender-separated secular, non-Jewish schools in New York in recent years.

      As anyone who has studied mathematics and statistics knows, Ben-David’s extrapolation far into the future saying the Haredim and Arabs are going to take over (what’s wrong with the Arabs taking over anyway?) is not a very reliable mathematical prediction method.

      But, let’s say there is a problem with Haredi education. What are you going to do about it? Shut the schools down? Go into them with a gun and order them to change their curriculum?
      They will change on their own because they see that they will lose a lot of their youth because they know they are not being given opportunities to get ahead on their own. Reform will come no matter what. Hysteria on the part of the secular will not help, in fact, it makes them more defensive.

      Reply to Comment
    2. @ben israel – you’re right that it is not “haredization” (i never said that, btw) – but to say it has nothing to with it is also a bit misleading on your part.
      As for getting high Bagrut scores – that’s fab. But what good is it when compared to every other country you’re still behind? By the way, I have heard of university faculty in Israel who complain that each year the level of math that new students come to class with keeps getting worse, to the point that they don’t have the basics to do a simple Introduction to Economics 101 in their first year.
      Ben David also says himself that the 2040 scenario is a far fetch – but it isn’t if the trend continues. He expands on this in the link I provided.
      As for your hope of the education changing by itself – you might be more of an optimist I thought you to be, Ben.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mitchell Cohen

      So what is the solution? Seriously, are grades in Israel lower (in the non-Haredi sectors) because of religion or because a dose of nationalism is thrown into the studies? Could it be corruption? It is amazing they can find teachers at all in Israel with what they are being paid. This is not to say throwing more money at teachers will solve all the above problems, but we can’t blame anything on thugs throwing stones at girl and singing the Hatikva from kindergarten.

      FWIW, I guess my daughter (Kita Gimmel) studies in one of the 140 mamlachti-dati elementary schools where boys and girls study together until kita vav.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mitchell Cohen

      Correction: but we can’t blame EVERYTHING on thugs throwing stones at girls and singing Hatikva from kindergarten….

      Reply to Comment
    5. Y.

      This post has been edited

      First, we must note that Israel’s absolute expenditure on education has been high by OECD standards (no, normalizing it by “per pupil” is misleading, as Ben-David explains[1]). So, it’s not exactly “Israel giving up education”, at least if funding is the measure. Why is then performance so bad?
      I can think of at least a number of explanations:
      A) The culture has been getting anti-intellectual. This was to a certain extent the case from the beginning – but it’s been getting much worse in the recent decades.
      B) Silly education reforms not all of which were undone [“Shafa K’michlol”, “Mahar 98”, selection to far too many masloolim while not teaching the basics instead].
      C) A fat bureaucratic class in Ministry of Education with far too many inspectors, which siphons money like a sponge, away from, say, teachers’ salaries.
      D) While one should note the rising demographics of Haredi and Arabs + the problem of their education system, this doesn’t explain the performance of the “strongest kids” (whom one might expect to do much better if this was the main reason). This is therefor at best a contributing factor for now.

      Reply to Comment
    6. aristeides

      I’ve been following this story for a few years. Y seems to know what he’s talking about.

      It’s easy to see how the education problem is going to have an impact on the immigration problem. American Jews, at least, are extremely education-centered. They’re not likely to bring their kids to a country where the education level is so low, or remain there in such a system.

      One reason American Jews come to Israel with young children is the high cost of a “Jewish education” in the US, which they think is free in Israel. Then they see what they get for free.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Tom Hebert

      It reminds me of the situation in the US with the ongoing culture wars and anti intellectualism of the Evangelicals. Jewish anti intellectualism, now there’s something new.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Philos

      It is a recipe for authoritarianism (maybe even totalitarianism) and the end of democracy. As per Michael Mann’s theory about nation-statist nationalism vs civil-society nationalism originating in the military composition of a state Israel is the former. The former is also where all of Europe’s great authoritarian powers arose; land locked, large land armies and highly militaristic societies.
      It’s incredible, really, that Israeli democracy has lasted this long.

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    9. Danny

      @Ami Kaufman: This article is fascinating, and your conclusions are spot on. But you fail to mention the most important reason for the Haredi/Arab pupil growth rate – namely, a population growth rate that far exceeds that of the secular population. Of course if each Haredi family has on average 10 children, while each secular family has around 3, you’re going to see graphs like that. The real question that has to be debated is what will the state do about Haredi growth rates? When you pay people to make children, what do you expect – that they will stop at 5? When will this damned state start to behave responsibly and stop paying these leeches to produce more and more leeches? If you take away the economic incentive to procreate, Herschale will get off his ass and go get a job in order to fund his tribe. He will have less time (and energy) to make children, and Haredi families will shrink. But will Israel act before it’s too late? I am very doubtful.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Mitchell Cohen

      @Danny, my supervisor at work has nine kids living at home (the tenth one is married and doesn’t count as far as child stipends are concerned). His family receives a whopping 2,100 and some odd shekels per month in child stipends. This is hardly enough to live on. So, if you think cutting down child stipends will do the trick, you are sadly mistaken….

      Reply to Comment
    11. Danny

      @Mitchell: Reduce that 2,100 to 0 (or close to it – I actually think the state should give an allowance for the first child, half an allowance for the second, none thereafter), and your supervisor will have to work more hours, or his wife will have to get a part-time job, etc. Either way, they will have less time to procreate.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Henry Weinstein

      Mmm, we may have another semantic problem on this thread, easier to solve than the correct meaning of “liberal Zionism”: it would be according to me more accurate to say anti-educated than anti-intellectual.
      Indeed you cannot be anti-intellectual without being able to dig into a wide range of… intellectual topics, without being very educated in short.
      Some famous modern anti-intellectual thinkers, each one attacking the dominant ideas & concepts of their time: Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Witttgenstein, Isaiah Berlin, Alasdair MacIntyre, Joseph Ratzinger.
      In other words, all great thinkers are proud anti-intellectuals!

      Reply to Comment
    13. Mitchell Cohen

      @Danny, the child stipends are not going to make make or break Haredim, Arabs, or anyone else who want to have a lot of kids. And, in case you haven’t notice, it doesn’t take very long to conceive (all one needs is Shabbat….:-) )

      Reply to Comment
    14. AYLA

      Can I just throw into this interesting dialogue the disciplinary problem (utter lack of respect for teachers/authority) in Israeli schools (gan through high school), and the lack of teacher training as compared to the U.S.? This disturbs me a) because of how it affects education for kids and b) because of the cultural attitude at large.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Lauren

      Education is taking a back seat in most countries these days. The only schools in the US worth attending are the private schools. If you can’t afford them, you are at the mercy of poor public system. It’s all a matter of dumbing the kids down. Don’t encourage critical thinking and give them as little real education as possible. The US has been making the students take all these State tests….. all the kids do is work on passing the test. No time for real learning. Ignorant people are easy to control.
      What the powers to be want is to have the rich kids move ahead while the rest stay stuck and stupid.
      After reading the article, I don’t have to wonder why the Haredi settlers are nuts.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Danny

      @Mitchell: Is sex allowed on Shabbat? Isn’t it considered work? 😉
      My point was that if there are no more child allowances available, it will be much harder to provide for a brood of 10 than for, say, 5 or 6. Yes, Haredi families will still be much larger than secular ones but the explosion will be smaller and easier to contain. Right now, with Haredi families averaging 10-12 children, Israel is headed towards a theocracy (medinat halacha) within 30 years time. When that happens, women will be prohibited from singing in Tel Aviv as well.

      Reply to Comment
    17. AYLA

      @Danny–sex on shabbat is a mitzvah, actually; go stay with an orthodox family for shabbat and watch the parents disappear for a “nap”. Unlike many of the orthodox laws that are designed to help couples conceive (and desire each other), the kavannah behind sex on shabbat is really about two people who love each other, connecting. Judaism is pretty sex-positive.

      Reply to Comment
    18. directrob

      The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing …
      I had to listen to the presentation multiple times. The presentation is quite bad. No introduction, no conclusion and no recommendations. No wonder nothing happens. To put ultra ortodox and “Arabs” in one graph is actually quite an enormity. The same for calling east-jerusalem palestinians Arabs. My conclusions (don’t take them seriously 🙂 )
      To lift up the average education in Israel it would be wise to invest most means into the education of Arab speaking students (Palestinians) in Israel.
      Israel needs places where students can do homework under professional guidance. This to help families of lower educated parents.
      Teachers have to work harder and spent more time with students (if money is a problem tax the rich).
      There need to be standard language, math and science curriculums for all students on all schools.

      Reply to Comment
    19. JG

      Thanks for this report on pakistani quran schools. …….Oh, wait, this is not there?

      Couldn’t the UN find a place,where all these backwardish folks like Taliban, Haredim, creationist evangelicals and catholic Pius brotherhood guys could live together and tell fairytales to each other without bothering normal people? But please without their children. The kids don’t deserve such indoctrination.

      Reply to Comment
    20. JG

      PS: and I forgot the Salafis, who sure has to live in that new state Backwardistan also

      Reply to Comment
    21. Ben Israel

      People are mixing up Haredim with other Orthodox Jews. Not all Orthodox Jews are Haredim and, for that matter, not all Haredim are the same.
      You seemed to miss the point that Mitchell Cohen’s supervisor at his place of employment who has 10 children WORKS for a living. I know of families with 10-12 children where the father works, all the boys are educated to go to the Army and both boys and girls are encougaged to go to University. NOT ALL PEOPLE WILL LARGE FAMILIES ARE HAREDI “KOLLEL” LEARNERS who don’t work. In fact, there are Haredim with large families who work and who also educate their children who work. Yes, many Haredim and other Orthodox do want children who “have a good head for learning Torah” to continue this as adults, but many understand that only a minority can or should do this.
      Regarding the general deterioration of education in Israel, the US and other Western countries, I believe a major factor is due to loss of concern about the future. Many people say WHY SHOULD I PAY MONEY TO SEND SOMEONE ELSE’S KIDS TO SCHOOL? Education is an investment in the future. If someone doesn’t care what is going to happen after they have completed their 120 years here in the world, then they are not going to worry about the state of the school system. If they have only 1 or 2 kids, they can possibly afford to send them to private schools and to heck with the public school system.
      Attitudes towards education reflect one’s basic values system. Ayla’s mention of the problem of discipline in the schools is another manifestation of this.

      Reply to Comment
    22. dickerson3870

      RE: “…Haredi school boys threw stones at secular Jewish school girls.[Because] The schoolgirls were singing…” ~ Ami Kaufman

      MEANWHILE, IN HOLLYWOOD: “Streisand to sing at Israeli soldier benefit in LA”, by Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss, 11/27/11
      (excerpt) Rare performance: Barbra Streisand will play a Dec. 8 LA gala for the Israel Defense Forces. Hosted by Jason Alexander, who is going to forge the two-state solution. Sponsored by Haim Saban…

      Reply to Comment
    23. Mitchell Cohen

      Haredi bashing might be a fun past time here (on this site and in this country), but it is not going to solve the education crisis in Israel. Say that Danny and all the other Haredi lovers get their wish and tomorrow all the Haredim in Israel either disappear or start their own country in Timbuktu. Yofi!!!! Guess what?!?! The education system in the “secular” and “national religious”, not to mention “Arab” schools is still sub-par when compared to most other Western countries. So, I ask (sincerely) – what are some solutions (your solutions)? Well, I suggest the following link on the SHUVU school system by Jonathan Rosenblum (but hold your noses because Rosenblum is, cough, cough, Haredi!!!!):


      While my kids do not go to Shuvu schools, I think we all have what to learn from this school system.

      PS, Ayla has a point (lack of respect for authority). When I grew up in the States, if I called a teacher by his/her first name, it would have been grounds for a visit to the principal’s office….

      Reply to Comment
    24. When I grew up in Haifa in the 80’s, we used to rise from our seats every time the teacher came in. I understand this custom is not as prevalent as it used to be.
      We would also never say names – not private nor surname. Just “hamora!” (teacher).

      Reply to Comment
    25. A really good thread. 972 works.

      Reply to Comment
    26. aristeides

      From what I understand of the Israeli system, the school day is among the shortest in the world and the teaching establishment resists lengthening it, as well as other reforms.

      In Chicago, the new mayor Rahm Emanuel (remember him?) took on the teachers union to demand that the school day, one of the shortest in the US at 5 hr 45 minutes, be lengthened by 90 minutes.

      “I guarantee you that in Hong Kong, they’re not having a debate on whether five hours a day is adequate. Nobody today, driving the garbage truck in the city of Chicago or at the top of the most powerful financial institutions in the city, got there on five hours a day of education. They were there for 7 1/2 hours. And I’ll tell you this, the future trucks we’re buying will require technological skill that you can’t get in five hours a day.”

      Reply to Comment
    27. Mitchell Cohen

      “From what I understand of the Israeli system, the school day is among the shortest in the world and the teaching establishment resists lengthening it, as well as other reforms.” [End of Aristeides] One has to take into consideration that for most schools in Israel, the school week is six days (as opposed to five in most Western countries). There are some exceptions, like the school my daughter goes to, that runs five days a week (Sunday-Thursday) and the school day (at least in third grade) is from 8am-3pm….

      Reply to Comment
    28. aristeides

      Yet the “long school day” project in Israel has been supported by most reformers.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Ben Israel

      Those who are moaning the growth of the Haredi education system need to look in the mirror for a big part of the reason for this. The MAPAI-MAPAM-Labor Party has controlled the secular education system in this country from the very beginning. Most Edot-HaMizrach-Sefardim kids were educated in that system. With the rise of the SHAS movement in the 1980’s, parents were seeing the results of the “reforms” in the education that were turning out half-educated kids in schools with serious discipline problems. SHAS community workers convinced many parents who were not Haredi to send their kids to these schools where there was discipline and respect for elders was inclulcated. This accounted for the phenomenal growth of the SHAS school system. Again, at the beginning the people who sent their kids there were not Haredim. Even now many are not, at least not the way the Ashkenazi Haredi schools cater to a Haredi clientel. Maybe the secular leaders of the education system could learn something from this.

      Reply to Comment
    30. @BI – while I agree partly with what you say, mainly that the Haredim are not totally to blame for their ignorance, I find it funny not to blame them for their “growth” as you call it. Can’t that simply be put to “be fruitful and multiply”? That’s how it’s measured around most of the world. The more kids, the faster the “growth”. Surely you’re not saying that Haredim are fruitful due to Mapai politics… or are you?

      Reply to Comment
    31. AYLA

      @Ami–good to hear about your experience in the 80’s in Haifa. I hope I’m wrong about the disrespect today. Though, I’ve heard this from so many.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Ben Israel

      The point I was making is that the existing secular education system PUSHED people who were not Haredim into the Haredi system. Much of the SHAS system growth is due to recruting new students who are NOT from Haredi families.

      Reply to Comment
    33. I am not religious, but I know that religion is a fundamental family tool for many. If Ben Israel is right (I assume he is), one should recognize that a disciplinary program may be attractive to many struggling families. I am a liberal and do very (very) badly with authority. Yet I recognize that what Ben Israel describes may well be a funadmental reason for Haredi school growth.
      What you have on this thread is a way of crossing religious political boundaries through a discussion of Israeli education. The more such crossing occur, the better the chance of altering the present political culture, perhpas in directions unforseen by the major sides. I wonder what the J14 people (coming to the demonstrations) think of the educational system.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Ben Israel

      If you want to understand the attraction of Orthodox/religious non-Haredi and Haredi education and life-style, I suggest you look at the results of the elections in the Arab and Muslim world. We see strong electoral performances by Muslim parties in Turkey, Tunisia and now Egypt. Don’t forget the HAMAS victory in 2006 in the last free elections in the Palestinian territories.
      People attempt to explain away these by saying “the vote for HAMAS was not really for their ideology, but rather a protest vote against FATAH corruption”, or, in Egypt saying “the two large Islamist blocs won because they were better organized”.
      The assumption Western observers (I include Israelis, particularly the Left in this) make is that “if only the masses could truly implement their will, they would install a Swedish-style secular social democratic regime”. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Many people in the world reject secular, materialist, consumerist values. This comes back to this thread on education. It is the same for the Orthodox/religous in Israel. Obviously there are gradations…not all religous Jews or Muslims reject democracy, freedom of religion and the such. However, I maintain that the Islamist vote we are seeing in the Muslim world is a vote for “authenticity”…a return to their traditionalist values….respect for family, respect for elders, respect for religious and cultural traditions. The Israeli Left has always more or less rejected these values and has generally interpreted everyone basic drive as one for money, more or less (This was after they chucked out their socialist ideology). However, as the TANACH says “man does not live by bread alone”. It is important to keep this in mind in trying to understand the tectonic social movements were are seeing in this part of the world.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Mooser

      I sense a lot of animosity toward Israel here. Israel is at war, threatened by 22 or so Arab countries with hundreds of millions of people eager to wipe Israel off the face of the earth!
      To deal with that you don’t need geniuses, you need soldiers. And fanatically motivated soldiers would be a plus. Yes, this thread reeks of Jew-hatred.
      Why would any Jew want his child to grow up to be a well educated apostate, when he could be fanatic cannon fodder for Israel? It boggles the mindand disses the gruntle to think about it.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Henry Weinstein

      Sure, to deal with your bullshit, Mooser, we don’t need geniuses.
      And it’s not “a well educated apostate” who writes these words, I’m much worse than this, Mooser.
      I’m man who doesn’t live by hatred, like you do.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Henry Weinstein

      Proofreading (I’m still under antibiotics, reason-why):
      I’m a man who doesn’t live by hatred

      Reply to Comment
    38. Ben Israel,
      There are too many threads on this site, and too many fight as usual contributors therein, for me to keep up with much. I’ve read what you’ve said and think there is something to it; in the US as well, in a way.
      I can’t be around much on the site, but I am glad I have encountered somebody who lives in a much different world than I (in many ways), yet can communicate clearly to me and help me think. I think we could talk face to face a long time. And as another recurring rightist on this site, Bosko (if a single person), that’s needed now.
      “Authenticity”: yes. I’m not sure Orthodox Judaism has the concept of personal salvation. But Muslims and Christians do. The problem with salvation is that God has to give it. And that means one will do anything God says to get it. I like the fabled image of a believing Jew who shakes his fist at God, shouting “how dare you do this!” Now, maybe that’s all nonsense I heard somewhere….

      Reply to Comment
    39. Ben Israel

      Judaism has a long history of people arguing with G-d. It starts in the Book of Genesis with Patriarch Abraham trying to convince G-d not to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah. There was also the story of Jonah trying to flee from G-d’s command and getting swallowed by the fish.
      A later one is the Hassidic rabbi Levi Yitzhak from Berdichev.
      I am not an expert on Islam but the following anecdote may be instructive…..there is a group of Jewish settlers in Judea/Samaria who has initiated dialogue with Palestinians. One of the Jews decided, as religious Jews often do, to open the meeting with a “dvar Torah”,
      i.e. a short religious lesson. He quoted the story about Abraham’s argument but the Muslim listeners got very offended…in Islam you don’t argue with G-d! After all, the hame “Islam” means “submission”. The Jews decided it is best not to talk about religion after that!
      (Any Muslim readers are welcome to step in and correct me if I am wrong about this!).

      Reply to Comment
    40. delia ruhe

      None of this about Israeli education seems very Jewish to me. Good God! the Jews were literate and learned a thousand years before the illiterate German barbarians swept down from the north to colonize western Europe. Indeed, that was probably the main reason why the head honchos in the church instigated their antisemitic campaigning, given that so many pagans were converting to Judaism rather than Christianity.

      Those ancient Jewish traditions are responsible for the Western education and scholarly tradition. And so it seems both sad and unbelievable that Jewish Israeli children are globally near the bottom of the heap.

      Reply to Comment
    41. aristeides

      The Diaspora has saved the Jews before, it will save them again, from Israel. I’m pretty confident that after this misbegotten state has collapsed, there will still be Jews.

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    42. Ben Israel

      You really are too much . 6 million dead in “civilzed” Europe. Israel saved us.

      Reply to Comment
    43. aristeides

      In some alternate World War when the Palmach stormed the death camps, Ben I?

      Get real. Nobody saved the European Jews. They weren’t saved. But it was the Diaspora that put the rest out of reach of the killing machine.

      Now imagine when you get your wish and all the world’s Jews are clustered into a single target.

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    44. Mitchell Cohen

      Seriously, Aristeides posts are beginning to sound like Danneker’s and Edith Ann’s….

      And, Aristeides, I will bring my ? to you from the other thread that you brushed off: if you wish Israel to disappear, why are you so concerned (or at least taking time to comment) on her education system?

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    45. delia ruhe

      Yes, Aristeides, liberation turned out to involve many more peoples than just the Jews. And some Jews never forgave the liberators for it.

      Reply to Comment
    46. aristeides

      Mitchell – the question is relevant here. For one thing, educational issues interest me.

      For another, it seems to me that the failures of the Israeli education system will be one important factor leading to its collapse, which interests me.

      It’s not simply that I wish Israel to disappear, although I think this would be for the best as well as inevitable. Even those who would like to see Israel survive must be interested in those factors that are most likely to lead to its collapse.

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    47. pascal

      I think they should divide more precisely students based on : haredim vs secular, arab vs jews, and within jews : ashkenazi vs mizrahi

      because I think if you take secular ashkenazi students, they are maybe above the OCDE average

      I think the problem in Israel come from haredim, arabs and mizrahi jews.

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    48. Alarming to say the least. I left Israel in 1971. It’s education system then was second to none. Now I can’t get myself to visit my friends there.

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