Monday, August 01, 2005

The wood for the trees...

While Jewish Studies at University level is flourishing in the diaspora, in Israel it's dying a quick death:
The Talmud department at Tel Aviv University closed down this year, and the Talmud department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where some of the world's greatest scholars once studied, goes by the nickname "the talmid [lone student] Department."
I recall reading or hearing elsewhere that there were regularly more students of Chinese in HU than students of Talmud.
As a result, the universities are trying to 'jazz up' their offerings, resorting to mysticism, "and practical magic, which includes exorcism and spells" (TAU). In an editorial, Ha'aretz tries to explain why no one's interested:
This festival has been darkened by the shortsightedness of the government, which, in the course of its cutbacks to higher education in general, has mortally wounded the study of Judaism in the universities. That is not the only reason why Jewish studies have flourished abroad while languishing here. The overseas boom is also connected to the need of young Jews in a multicultural society to connect to their identity. Hebrew-speaking Israelis feel this need less - or at least, during their school years. They also, for financial reasons, prefer studies with a practical orientation. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the damages caused by the assault on Israel's higher education system are already visible in a comparison of universities here to those abroad.
Of-course, they've missed out the most obvious reason, which is that for political and other reasons, secular Israelis are hostile to religion and perceive it as profoundly uncool, and no amount of exorcism and spells is going to change that. Unfortunately, this is a wider cultural problem, not something the universities can solve alone.

1 comment:

Ze'ev said...

Almost from the founding of the State of Israel, in the public school system, anything having ot do with the Oral Law was shunned as being irrelevant and non-binding (part of the exile Jew mentality), and Tanach, more often than not was taught as merely nice stories, with elements of biblical criticism.

This created generations of Jews who have come to view their tradition as being an old bag of goods, and not worth valueing.

The key to the future of Israel as a Jewish State lies in creating a truly Jewish educational system that will produce proud and knowledgeable Jews - otherwise, what reason is there for someone to stay here?