Tadmor-Shimony, Tali. “Yearning for Zion in Israeli Education: Creating a Common National Identity.” Journal of Jewish Identities 6.1 (2013): 1-21.
A study of the educational materials that Israeli elementary school students used in the 1950s and 1960s during their eight years of free, mandatory education enriches our understanding of the techniques used to transmit one of the basic elements of Zionist ideology. During their first year of school, six- and seven-year-olds in Hebrew lessons heard the legendary version of the weekly biblical portions, such as Lekh Lekhah (Go forth! Gen. 12:1) and the Bible story of the disagreement between Abraham’s shepherds and those of Lot. Through these stories, the students heard the divine promise that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People. Hearing these stories at such a young age, from an unquestionable authority figure, creates a lasting impression on these future citizens.
Upon beginning seventh grade, Israeli students read the well-known line in their Hebrew literature class from the poetry of Rabbi Judah Halevi, which has become one of the most famous expressions in Zionist discourse: “My heart is in the East and I am at the end of the West.” The lesson’s official aim—to analyze works by the Jewish poets of Spain—was perhaps partially achieved, but certainly the Zionist message was transmitted (perhaps with even greater success than the academic goal.) When these teenagers reached their last year of elementary school, they were given the famous verse from Psalms (137:5) and were asked to answer the following leading question: “‘If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.’ How did the Nation keep this oath throughout the generations?”84 The correct answer to this question proved that the claim of the constant connection between the Jewish People and Zion, functioning as one of the central pillars of the Zionist ideology, had indeed been successfully transmitted to the next generation.