A reader from Mod’in was kind enough to send me a comment regarding an article I had written about Dreyfus Street. Now I am pleased to learn that we have four streets in our country bearing Alfred Dreyfus’ name. He was certain that all Israelis know the story of Dreyfus’ tragic life. So I put it to a test.
In Kanyon Hazahav, I interviewed twelve Israeli high school students sitting at an Aroma bar. Eleven of them were sabras, one had been born in Russia. All twelve had studied in secular Israeli schools.
The first question I asked was “Who knows who Alfred Dreyfus was”? Eight had no idea. The name was not familiar to them. One thought he had been an Israeli military hero like Moshe Dayan. One asked who he was. One said he had been an early Zionist leader. And one said “His name is German so he was probably a German”.
I asked them if they had studied the history of Zionism in their schools. All replied affirmatively.
I proceeded to question them about Jewish history and non-Jewish history that affected Jews. None of them had ever heard about Bogdan Chmielnicki, the 17th century Ukrainian hetman who led a massacre against the Jews in Poland, killing almost one hundred thousand Jews.
I asked the name of King David’s friend, the son of King Saul. Only two responded “Yehonatan” correctly. Ten did not know.
Who was Israel’s first President? Can you believe it…. Four replied “Ben-Gurion” !!!
None of them knew anything about Zeev Jabotinsky. Seven knew about Yosef Trumpeldor.
I was astonished when I asked if they had heard of Chana Szenes. Two excitedly replied that it was the name of a street in their community.
Before finishing their café hafuch, some asked me why I was asking these questions. I replied how concerned I was that so few of them knew so little about our history.
Why don’t they know?
And as far as poor Alfred Dreyfus is concerned, were it not for his tragedy, they would probably not be living in a State of Israel today.