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The politics of national education: values and aims of Israeli history curricula, 1956-1995

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Jewish history is unique in the sense that it expands over a vast period of time and takes place in almost all places in the world. This creates a major potential for historical debates. The state of Israel, which views itself as the high-point of Jewish national identity, has inherited these debates but attempted to find a way between them by creating a unified history curriculum for its state educational system. This attempt has failed, and on-going 'history wars' between various interpretations of Jewish and Israeli history sometimes turn into fierce political battles between the political left and right, between secular and orthodox, and between sectors of different cultural origins. This study describes and analyses the four history curricula published since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and discusses the social context which defined the values they were supposed to promote. The fundamental issue for history curricula writers was finding the correct balance between national (Jewish) and general (non-Jewish) history. In the secular school system there has been a gradual rise in general history at the expense of Jewish history, while in the religious school system the process was the opposite. The significant differences between the curricula reflect today's deep-seated rift between these sectors of Israeli-Jewish society.

Keywords: Israel; curriculum development; history; history and politics; national history

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2007

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