Locating ourselves on the map of history – 3

Just as this course assumes that a fully realized Jewish identity should include feeling at home in the geography of Israel even if one has never set foot there, so too, we feel it is important to be oriented in the “map” of Jewish history: to have a sense of the flow of Jewish chronology in the context of world history, to be aware of major turning points and personalities.  Moreover, we believe it is important for a teacher to be involved in the conversation about the historical significance of Israel: did the Jews “leave history” when they lost their national independence?  Did we “return to history” in 1948?  Are we living in messianic times?  How we relate to Israel and how we teach Israel are inseparable from these philosophical questions.


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Conquest and Coexistence – 12

The period from the conquest of the land under Joshua to the crowning of Saul as king raises a number of interesting questions with modern relevance.  Regarding the conquest itself, there are questions on two levels: a) did it really happen as described in the book of Joshua?  Internal biblical evidence – and, possibly, archaeology – cast doubt on the account of the Israelites’ rapid and total conquest ofCanaan; if so, what do we do with the contradiction and how do we teach it?  b) how do we respond to our own and our students’ moral concerns about the bloody account of the conquest?  And of course, the question of the morality of conquest hovers over the discussion of the modern state ofIsraeltoo.

Another issue is that of Israelite identity.  The Book of Judges seems to depict a land inhabited by a number of disparate and sometimes even warring tribes, each absorbed in its own local conflicts with neighboring non-Israelite tribes; only in the face of a powerful common enemy does any kind of political union form – and only temporarily.  Different theories have been proposed regarding the formation of the Israelite nation during this period; how might these affect our understanding of Jewish identity past and present? 


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