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? 


Continue ReadingConquest and Coexistence – 12

Shabbat in Israel – 33

Shabbat is one of the hallmarks of Judaism, and can be seen as perhaps the central institution of Jewish life and symbol of Jewish identity. From ancient times until today the sanctifying of the Sabbath has set Jews apart from the other nations and afforded them a holy “space” in time. Although different streams of Judaism observe Shabbat differently, all are united in viewing it as a precious and unique day. From the beginning of the Zionist revolt against the Jewish religious tradition, Shabbat has provided the focus of many unresolved questions pertaining to the role of Jewish religion in the State. What makes it a “Jewish” state? How is that Jewishness to be reflected in the public realm? Can a democratic state legislate “Jewishness”? The issue of Shabbat and the ongoing debates, tensions and disputes it has caused in Israel make it a relevant and salient case study for exploring these issues and dilemmas.

Compared to all the other holidays we have considered, Shabbat is the most universal, the least tied directly to Eretz Yisrael and its landscape. The study of Shabbat in Israel focuses not on our historical memories of Israel, but on our struggle to find the place of “Jewish values” in a real-life Jewish state.


Continue ReadingShabbat in Israel – 33

Different Directions within Zionism – 42

Click here for downloadable pdf.

From the very beginning, Zionism meant very different things to different people.  This lesson examines three of the major fault lines: a) between those who saw Zionism as a rebellion against Judaism and those who saw it as the fulfillment of Judaism; b) between those who saw in Zionism the hope for creating a socialist utopia and those who sought “normalization;” and c) between those who anticipated the ingathering of all the exiles and those who saw the state as a sustaining center for a revitalized world Jewry.


Continue ReadingDifferent Directions within Zionism – 42