One of the big surprises in Israel education curricula on a middle or high school level in the diaspora is that they are almost non-existent. Very few so-called “Zionist” day schools teach Israel studies as a separate subject. Most of these institutions feel it is enough to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day and encourage their students to attend a gap year program in Israel. The result of this misguided policy is that graduates of twelve years of Jewish day school arrive on college campuses with little or no literacy on modern Zionism and its achievements or challenges. Deputy Minister Michael Oren observed that what we do on college campuses regarding Israel advocacy is too late. According to Oren, the students need to be educated and inspired whilst still in junior high school.
The majority of literature on this topic indicates that the view of Israel education until the end of twentieth century was very two-dimensional and focused almost exclusively on “survivalism and pride,” alternating with periods of “paternalism.” This is a fundamentally flawed system. If Israel education is defined solely through crises it is “reactive” and of course exceedingly difficult to educate succeeding generations about the complex evolving realities of Israel. It is important to acknowledge that with all of Israel’s incredible successes in many fields since its creation, there are issues that Israel is grappling with as it continues to stride into the 21st century. The problems that the Jewish State faces include topics as far ranging as: security, religion, society, environment, education and how to harmoniously co-exist with a minority population.
The challenge of Israel education in the twenty-first century is to move beyond the old metaphors of the “mythical/romantic Israel,” or the “poor immigrant cousin.” The need to re-engage with Israel education in new ways is apparent. As previously noted, most Jewish day school students in the diaspora lack a basic knowledge of the subject and that without this core knowledge foundation; all of the fancy theories of education and advocacy are worthless. This leads me to the conclusion that it is imperative for each Jewish day school to develop for itself a clear statement of its commitment to Israel, a comprehensive ideology that places today’s Israel firmly in the centre of the institutional core and curriculum, and most importantly act on its mission statement.
To that end I have written an Israel education curriculum on Zionist literacy. Koren Press recently published this comprehensive curriculum, titled, “For the Sake of Zion, A Curriculum of Israel Studies” whose target audiences are middle and high school students (5th Edition: 2017). Since its initial publication thousands of copies of the curriculum book have been sold to schools, Federations, Jewish institutions and youth movements in Australia, South Africa, Europe, Canada and the USA. The materials in the curriculum are meant to assist Jewish students to better understand their connection to Israel, thereby helping them when they attend college to confidently identify with and, if necessary, defend Israel against critics. Hadassah magazine reviewed the curriculum and came to the conclusion that, “This excellent resource guide is long overdue…it provides powerful intellectual and historic background…worksheets, topics for discussion, an excellent chronology and bibliography coupled with a compelling text makes ‘For the Sake of Zion’ an invaluable teaching tool.”
Other reviews of the curriculum from leading luminaries in the Jewish world are found below:
“This book is a wonderful road map to one of the great journeys of human history – the return of the Jewish people to Israel. Dr. Tuvia Book combines the head of a knowledgeable expert with the heart of a passionate educator, to produce a volume rich in facts, ideas, and creative pedagogy. This guide will be an invaluable resource for those who really care about bringing Israel into the hearts and souls of our young and not so young. This book in the hands of educators who care will fill a great void.”
– Professor Barry Chazan, Hebrew University, Birthright Israel
“Tuvia Book has written a fascinating and informative survey of Zionism from its early days to the present. This book is an important addition to the existing educational material.”
– Sir Martin Gilbert, Oxford University
“It is a splendid work, enlightening, full of important information, well-organised and beautifully produced. I need hardly say how valuable a contribution it is, given the sad state of disinformation and demonisation of Israel in so many circles today. I congratulate you on it and hope it is widely read and reflected on.”
– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
“Kol Hakavod and congratulations on this important and much needed book!”
– Natan Sharansky
“Bravo! Putting his extensive knowledge and experience to great use, Tuvia Book has produced an essential guide for teachers and students, offering pithy, practical, exciting, illuminating and substantive units on Zionist history, Zionist ideology, and the State of Israel. This helpful guide will help bring Zionist education and Israel studies into the twenty-first century.”
– Professor Gil Troy, McGill University
“’For the Sake of Zion’ is extremely informative. The book inspires students to delve deeper into vital historical subjects for the Jewish people and the Zionist enterprise. This is indeed an important project.”
– Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laurette
Ordering information for “For the Sake of Zion, A Curicullum of Israel Studies: https://www.korenpub.com/toby_en_usd/toby/new-releases-toby/for-the-sake-of-zion.html