The official readings for learning Hebrew in second grade in state schools is like spitting in the face of the nonreligious. The spit comes right from the mouth of Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Once Dick and Jane ran and jumped, now Jane is a Yiddishe Mama who fasts.
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At the beginning of the second-grade reading anthology is the story, based on the Talmud, “Yosef cherishes the Sabbath” (Yosef Mokir Shabbat). A story of a poor Jew who works for “a rich Edomite man” who takes advantage of him. Despite his poverty, Yosef takes care to receive the Sabbath with magnificent foods and fine clothing.
In the Edomite’s dream, a man with a white beard appears, who tells him that as punishment for his exploitation, Yosef will receive all his property. In order to protect his wealth, the Edomite sells all his assets and trades it all for a single gem, which he keeps in his hat. As he is crossing a bridge, the wind sends his hat with the diamond flying into the river.
A large, fat fish swallows the gem. The fisherman who catches the fish is unable to sell the fish because of its high price. Only the poor Yosef buys the fish because he does not scrimp on his spending for the Sabbath. Yosef finds the diamond in the belly of the fish and becomes rich.
The entire new Israeli fascism is rolled up in this legend. There is a clear connection between the figure of the righteous and victimized Jew, who God rewards for his righteousness, and the apartheid steps that Bennett is leading in Amona. God punishes the evil goy. The evil goy and the righteous Jew are bound in an existential battle which is a zero-sum game. The Jew’s redemption is at the same time the fall of the goy. It is all or nothing, one at the expense of the other.
The law to legalize the settlements allows the victimized and righteous Sabbath-observing Jews to take from the Edomite the lands that God promised them. A direct line between extreme, religious and racist nationalism and the reading anthology for learning Hebrew in second grade.
Written under the title “Sabbath” in the reader is: “On the Sabbath eve, before the Sabbath begins, the mothers light candles and say the blessing: ‘Blessed are Thou, O Lord our God, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to light the Sabbath candles.’ Some mothers add a silent prayer for the members of their family.” Alongside the text is an illustration in which a mother and daughter can be seen blessing the burning candles. Laid out on the table is a white tablecloth. On it are a challah, silver wine cup and an open prayer book.
And what is the landscape we can see from the window? We can assume it is Amona. That is how secular children are taught Hebrew. And that is how they are taught reading skills: “What is the role of mothers on the Sabbath eve?” That is the first question discussed in the text.
A recent official post on Facebook from the Education Ministry invites parents and children to “see Kobi Oz, Ishai Ribo, Shai Zabari, Rona Kenan and other artists, who meet together on a single stage with intellectuals and share with the audience the experience of their Sabbath throughout the generations and to this day.” The series of performances are called “Shabbat Shalom.”
And the children who Bennett is teaching Hebrew read the signs of the “Shishi Yisraeli” (Israeli Friday) nonprofit organization in the streets, which declare that the Kiddush prayer over the wine on Friday night “unites.” Israeliness is defined there as fulfilling the Kiddush ceremony on Friday night. Therefore, Arabs are by definition not Israelis. And Jews who do not make Kiddush are dividing the people. A sort of traitors.
Every day that this reader is studied from is a day in which a child from a secular and liberal home comes home from school with Bennett’s spittle on his face. And Bennett asks you: What are you thinking of doing about it?