Cultivating the soil as an educational message in Israeli schools during the 1950s and 1960s

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Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-42
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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