Not too long ago, the results of a comparative study between the level
of education in Israel and in other advanced countries were published.
They were unimpressive to say the least. The educational level of
Israeli students is on the downfall in comparison to other advanced
In response to this report, popular media analysts focused their
attention, as usual, upon irrelevant factors. For the most part, they
opted to blame the impending cuts in the education budget rather than
make an effort to get to the roots of the problem. For one thing, cuts
have not yet taken effect, while the results of this study reflected
last years developments; furthermore, the education budget in Israel
is comparatively higher than those in most Western countries.
The truth of the matter is that the problem is a social-ideological
one, and not connected to Israel’s spending budget.
For generations upon generations, the Jewish people have given
scholarship precedence above all else. The scholar was considered the
most honored individual in society. The wealthy considered it a
privilege to have their daughters marry scholars. Jewish education was
never based upon schoolwork alone; it was first and foremost a family
affair – the Jewish family has traditionally related to scholarship as
the most important of values. Even non-observant Jewry, during its
first and second generations, continued to relate to study with honor.
Yet, now, in the third generation, things have changed.
When the life objective becomes going out on the town, buy clothing,
traveling abroad, gourmet restaurants, dancing all night, and
returning drunk in the early hours of the morning, it should come as
no surprise that the majority of our youth prefer television, movies,
drinking, dancing, partying, and unbridled freedom over study.
Parents who lead a life of freedom and irresponsibility, expressing
themselves in vulgar language and adorning themselves in immodest
clothing, chain-smoking, drinking beer and coffee, and wasting their
time with self-centered leisure and all sorts of nonsense, should not
expect their child to turn out modest, honest, educated, and
intelligent. The child merely imitates his parents. Adults who are
insolent towards those who are better and wiser than they and laugh at
jokes which desecrate all that is treasured and sacred, are later
shocked that their children are disrespectful toward them and their
teachers and are unwilling to accept authority. They do not hesitate
to blame the government for not investing enough money in “education.”
In the past, Torah teachers were poor. The children would gather in
the teacher’s house and he would educate them from morning until
night. This “classroom” also served as the bedroom, kitchen, and
living room of the teacher’s family. In the center of the room the
children sat and studied Torah, and on the side, the teacher’s wife
would sew, cook, and take care of the small children. Sometimes even
the goat and rooster would come inside the very same room in order to
warm themselves and eat the scraps of leftover food….In the midst of
all this, Jewish children studied Torah and grew to become learned,
pious, and gentle Jews. Though they lacked adequate formal conditions,
they possessed respect for scholarship.