‘Children of Our Future’: Climate, degeneration and education in Hebrew society in mandatory Palestine (1917–1948)

Yair Seltenreich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


‘Children of Our Future’ was a short essay published in 1929 in the Hebrew Teachers’ Association jubilee book. It boldly claimed that future offspring of European Jews in Palestine were all fatally doomed due to the degenerative characteristics of the local climate. Such concepts stood in clear opposition to the dream of creating a regenerated type of New Jew in Palestine (referred to symbolically as ‘Hebrew’, which was the ancient denomination of Jews in Palestine). What were the cultural concepts that inspired the article? Did it express a unique idea of the writer or, on the contrary, reflect deeper hidden fears and concealed disappointments of the Hebrew community? To what extent were such concepts a cultural reflection of wider European ideas about degeneration? This article tries to elucidate these issues. The Jubilee book was particular for two reasons: it represented one of the most influential activist groups in Jewish Palestine of that period – the Hebrew teachers – and it was, for its time, an unchallenged intellectual achievement by the wide scope of educational issues it treated as well as by the depth of its analysis. The article, in fact, was unique in trying to reconstruct a pupil ‘type’ and in trying to understand the origin of its particular features. It was also seemingly unique in its interpretation of environmental influences, which stood in apparent contradiction to regenerative ideas that dominated the Jewish ethos in Palestine. But was it indeed unique or rather a reflection of alternative concepts that considered the regenerative trend with more critical views? In order to answer this the article should be placed in the larger context of psychological, medical and pedagogical European concepts concerning degeneration and regeneration and their reflections in the intellectual sphere of Jewish Palestine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-351
Number of pages17
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate
  • Degeneration
  • Education
  • Hygiene
  • New Hebrew

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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