Cite: Tadmor-Shimony, Cultivating the Soil as an Educational Message

Tadmor-Shimony, Talia. "Cultivating the Soil as an Educational Message in Israeli Schools During the 1950s and 1960s." Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 10.1 (2011): 23-42.




One of the founding principles of the Zionist ethos is cultivation of the soil. This article examines the ways in which this ethos was “translated” into educational values in Israeli State (secular) primary schools during the 1950s and 1960s. The translation took place at three levels. First, agriculture was presented as a paragon and the rural way of life as idyllic in the written curriculum. Reading textbooks included collections of stories about farmers who had fulfilled the myth of “making the wilderness bloom”; history textbooks emphasized the importance of Hebrew agriculture in the Zionist narrative. The second level was the physical cultivation of the soil in agriculture lessons: children learned how to grow radishes and onions, maintain an irrigation grid, and put together a sprinkler. The third level was the creation of an agricultural timeframe by teaching in accordance with the timeline of agrarian seasons. Schools celebrated “agrarianized” versions of Jewish festivals in order to emphasize the renewal of the Jewish people’s connection with its land through agricultural work.

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