Because book reviewers influence which books are purchased for libraries and schools, it is important to understand the explicit or implicit criteria they employ. Reviewer practices with books on politically controversial topics set in Israel/Palestine and available to a US audience often reflect partisan views, with the dominant political discourse favouring the Israeli position, although this is far from ubiquitous. While some reviews avoid addressing the books’ politics, others are decidedly partisan. Many base their evaluations on their estimation of the degree of hope and political balance achieved in the works, yet these expectations are applied selectively. Some expect stories told from a pro-Palestinian perspective to be hopeful and balanced by sympathetic Israeli characters and opinions, but do not measure stories told from an exclusively Israeli perspective by the same yardstick. The strength of the dominant discourse is apparent in this selective application. Another common criterion is the educational usefulness of these books as teaching tools. Reviewers seldom evaluate them on their literary merits. This phenomenon illustrates Norman Fairclough’s assertion that the dominant political discourse is so internalised as to appear to be commonsense, and this obscures both its influence on one’s own worldview and the possibility of alternatives.
Katzin, Ori. “Teaching Approaches of Beginning Teachers for Jewish Studies in Israeli Mamlachti Schools: A Case Study of a Jewish Education Teachers’ Training Program for Outstanding Students.” Journal of Jewish Education 81.3 (2015): 285-311.
This article presents findings from a longitudinal qualitative study that examined teaching approaches of neophyte teachers in Israel during their 4-year exclusive teachers’ training program for teaching Jewish subjects and first two years of teaching. The program wanted to promote change in secular pupils’ attitudes toward Jewish subjects. We found a high incidence of teaching using positivistic approaches of knowledge transmission and the teachers adopted a particular teaching approach early into their training program that they continue to employ. Can teaching oriented in the transmission of central cultural value knowledge, with pupils as passive receptacles, create a meaningful encounter?
This article reviews an extensive study of Israeli secondary school general history curricula and textbooks since the establishment of the state in 1948 until the present day. By analyzing the way in which Germany is presented in various contexts, the findings of the study indicate that, while the textbooks reflect a shift from an early censorious attitude to a factual approach, the curriculum continues to present national Jewish Zionism as the metanarrative. In this context, Germany is framed as a victimizer.
This article analyzes English textbooks used in Israel to examine whether their cultural content is appropriate for the Palestinian Arab learner. This topic is significant, as the English curriculum in Israel is uniform in all sectors. The article presents a critical discourse analysis of six English textbooks used in Israeli high schools to examine the recurrence of seven discursive devices that might possibly serve as a means for shaping or (re)producing ideological values: (1) culturally distinctive names, (2) pronouns, (3) the passive/active voice when relating to the Other, (4) explicit statements defining the target audience, (5) narratives involving faraway cultures that perpetuate Western stereotypes and exclude the Other, (6) a demand for culturally specific prior knowledge, and (7) discourse constructing identities and collective memories. These devices serve to foster English learners imbued with Western oriented Jewish-Zionist ideology, while reproducing and perpetuating hegemonic ideology. Thus, English textbooks in Israel marginalize the Palestinian Arab minority, its culture and common traditions, thereby engendering a learning environment that creates a negative learning experience for students of this sector.
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.