Haredi Orthodox textbooks in Israel promote insularity and peaceful coexistence, study finds


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Textbooks used in the haredi Orthodox schools in Israel promote the community’s insularity as well as peaceful conduct and coexistence, according to a study by an education watchdog.

The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT-se, studied 93 textbooks used in grades 1 through 12 in the two major educational frameworks in haredi schools, “exempt institutions” and “recognized but unofficial.”

Recognized but unofficial schools receive 75 percent of their budget and are subject to partial supervision by the Ministry of Education’s Haredi Department. Exempt institutions are not subject to supervision. There are a small number of state haredi schools that receive 100 percent of their budget from the state and are subject to full supervision by the Haredi Department.

The curricula of the haredi Orthodox schools oppose modernity, and acceptance of others is limited and unequal depending on the perceived threats to the community’s identity and its goals, according to the study.

Hatred of the Jewish people by the rest of the world is taught as a permanent historical reality and especially manifested through the teaching of the Holocaust. In addition, there is no extensive coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since it is included as hatred from the rest of the world. The textbooks also have almost no reference to haredi Mizrahi culture, focusing instead on the Ashkenazi haredi experience.

“The textbooks generate a nostalgic consciousness that seeks to preserve and re-create traditional Eastern European Jewry — defining Haredi identity, shaping its goals and boundaries, and distinguishing itself from other forms of Israeli public,” the study found.

The textbooks also depict women as remaining in the background and not being empowered, while also being required to earn the family’s livelihood.

They either negate or are contemptuous of modern secular society, and hold out Reform Jewry for the most contempt, believing the movement is attempting to create an alternative religion.

According to the study, the “textbooks themselves, treated here as the researched corpus, do not satisfactorily meet all of UNESCO standards and beg for a serious reevaluation (despite a general commitment to peaceful conduct and coexistence). Having said so, and as shown in other reports as well, we are fully aware that the Haredi education as a whole offers some unique characteristics and advantages that may be worthwhile examining, with certain aspects potentially even offering a model for other education systems.”

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