The Jerusalem Post editorializes today (10 May 2010) about the sorry state of Jewish education in Israeli schools:
Our founding fathers understood the centrality of the Bible to the Jewish people’s connection to the land. In 1937, for instance, David Ben-Gurion told the British Peel Commission, saddled with the job of ending conflict the between Jews and Arabs, that the Bible was “the Jewish people’s mandate” for the land of Israel.
Israel policy makers, educators and IDF commanders have come to appreciate the strong correlation between a solid Jewish education and patriotism. Religious convictions aside, without a strong Jewish identity, Israeli citizens cannot be expected to make the necessary sacrifices demanded of them in a Jewish state surrounded by enemies. Nor can they hope to create an original Jewish culture.
But despite the appreciation for Jewish learning and Jewish identity, the reality today is far from ideal. Just two hours a week of Bible studies are required by the Education Ministry. According to minutes from a Knesset Education Committee meeting in March, many secular state schools teach even less, sometimes as little as one semester during all of the last three years of high school.
Then the Post goes on to praise private-government initiatives in Israel, including the Hartman Institute’s Be’eri program (although, sadly, it doesn’t mention Be’eri by name):
…privately funded initiatives such as TALI, a Hebrew acronym for Tigbur Limudei Yahadut (enhanced Jewish studies), and the Hartman Institute are filling the vacuum, proving once again that private initiative always beats state-funded projects.
TALI, with an annual budget of just under $2 million, funded principally by North American Jews, works in cooperation with 40,000 families and hundreds of teachers to introduce a pluralistic, liberal version of Judaism and prayer into the secular state school system on the preschool and elementary school level, while Hartman works with 50 junior high and high schools.
That final reference to Hartman, is, of course, to the Be’eri program. Be’eri does have government backing and the educational curricula are endorsed by the Education Ministry, but the program does have significant private backing, as well.