Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

“Jewish Journeys”- A Revolution in Teaching Jewish history

"Jewish Journeys" cover.  Photo (c) Tuvia Book and Koren, 2023
"Jewish Journeys" cover. Photo (c) Tuvia Book and Koren, 2023

Despite the explosion of Jewish studies at the University level, there is a severe gap in the teaching of Jewish history at the High School level. By the time our children reach college, they are not armed with the foundation knowledge that can perpetuate their Jewish heritage, defend them against prevailing anti-Zionist tendencies on campus, and help them find commonality with Jews from other walks of life. Building a strong Jewish identity foundation based on our long history is critical to our future. Our Rabbis wrote, “Know from whence you come and to where you are going” (Mishnah: Avot).  Rabbi Lord Sacks zt”l noted that:

There is nothing inevitable about the crisis of Jewish identity in the Diaspora. It is the result of a century of bad, if understandable, decisions, one above all: we neglected Jewish education. The result is that we know little about Judaism or Jewish History, and our children know less. They know about the Holocaust. They know about how Jews died, not how they live. They know about Israel, but that is somewhere else, not here. Today’s young Diaspora Jews are the most secularly educated and Jewishly illiterate of all time.

Jewish Journeys: The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt, 536 BCE–136 CE is an accessible and student-friendly Jewish history curriculum. It is also suited to the layperson interested in a concise record of important events and key figures in the history of the Jewish people. This volume is lavishly illustrated with photographs, illustrations, and maps. It is part of an integrated curriculum, combining elements of knowledge of related sites in Israel and source material. The multifaceted approach of Wiggins and McTighe, as expounded in their “Understanding by Design,” is the inspiration of the concluding section of each chapter.

This volume traces Jewish history from the Persian period in 536 BCE to the conclusion of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 136 CE. In doing so, the interaction of Jewish with world history is always noted. The time period covered in this volume was an extremely formative era in Jewish history. One that in many ways laid the foundation of the Jews’ survival as a people without a land, and most importantly gave them hope that, against all the odds, they would one day return to that land.

Many key features of Judaism, and indeed Jewish continuity, were introduced during these important six centuries. Many events in this period also served as an inspiration for the modern Zionist movement and the construction of an Israeli national tradition. During the Persian period Ezra and Nehemiah, while implementing a widespread program of universal Jewish education, introduced the concept of the exclusivity of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, as the Jews in Judea developed a form of self-government and were ruled by a theocracy of priests, the diaspora expanded considerably. Jerusalem and the Temple become the focus of Jewish life for the expanding Jewish communities.

In the entire period examined in this volume, the Jews in Judea were independent for just under a century. The Hasmonean dynasty’s self-rule started in 142 BCE and lasted until the Roman conquest in 63 BCE. Seen in historical perspective, the Hasmonean period left an indelible mark on Jewish history. It preserved and carried forward the biblical heritage of the Jewish people and its distinctive identity, faith, and culture. Without the Maccabean revolt and the liberation it achieved, Judaism might have withered away in the Hellenistic world.

Hellenistic oil lamp and coins from the time of the Hasmonean king Alexander Yannai in Modiin. Photo (c) T. Book

The year 66 CE was a seminal year in Jewish history. The heavy economic burden, insults to national pride, and malicious humiliation of the Jewish faith were more than the Jews could bear. Thus, began what would become known as the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome. In 70 CE, after a protracted siege, the Second Temple fell to the Romans, followed in 73 CE by the fall of Masada, the last bastion of independent Judea.

During the siege of Jerusalem, a leader of the Pharisees, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, obtained permission from the Romans to establish a non-political academy in the southern coastal town of Yavneh. The academy replaced the Sanhedrin as the body responsible for administering Jewish law and as the center of Jewish life over the next two generations. It produced some of the most famous rabbis in Jewish history. The main preoccupation of the leadership was to keep Judaism alive without the political entity of the state and without control of Jerusalem or a Temple, and to consolidate their national life on new foundations. The belief in a return to Jerusalem, the future renewal of the Temple, and a return to independent Jewish life in the Land of Israel, coupled with a yearning for the imminent coming of the Messiah, became central features in the lives of Jews everywhere.

The period covered in this volume, starting with the Persian period, and concluding with the Bar Kokhba Revolt, presents a remarkable story of resilience, courage, and adaptation. The early Zionists eagerly seized on the Bar Kokhba Revolt as proof that Jews, when faced with persecution, were capable of fighting for their dignity and self-respect. This became a symbol of national revival.

“Jewish Journeys” cover. Photo (c) Tuvia Book and Koren, 2021

Any Jew who walks the length and breadth of Israel cannot help but be instilled with a true love of the land. One’s love of the land is further strengthened with knowledge of its history. It is therefore imperative to have a book in your backpack that puts the landscape and biblical verses into historical context. Only then will you gain a physical, emotional, and intellectual attachment to the land. This is such a book.

– Dr Ruth Calderon, Founder of Alma, Home for Hebrew Culture

To appreciate the grandeur and majesty embedded in a richly lived Jewish life, we first need to know where we came from—the history of our people and how the Jewish past has shaped our view of the world. Tuvia Book has a unique gift for sharing the Jewish story with both clarity and passion; thanks to this wonderful book, students everywhere will have the privilege of calling him their teacher and guide.

-Rabbi Dr Daniel Gordis, Koret Distinguished Fellow; Shalem College, Jerusalem

Combining traditional sources with the latest historical and archaeological findings, and intellectual rigor with passionate engagement, this book is an exquisite rendering of the Jewish story.

– Yossi Klein Halevi, Senior Fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute.

This book is a supremely accessible and essential introduction to Jewish history. Its content will appeal to all ages. I only wish this book was available when I was young.

– Ambassador Dr Michael B. Oren

When I discovered my Jewish identity as a young man in the Soviet Union, Jewish history connected me to the Jewish past and empowered me to pursue a Jewish future.  I hope this book can offer the same feeling of connection and empowerment to our young generation.

– Natan Sharansky, Human Rights Activist former Refusnik.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order:
Related Topics
Related Posts