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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Bible appeals to secular youth too

This is slightly off the original fare, so bear with me. I've been thinking of raising this topic for the last week, but I needed to confirm one last fact which fell into place when I saw the article I am about to quote.

The Prime Minister's 15-year old son Avner placed third in the International Bible Contest held on Independence Day. I want you to appreciate what an achievement that was. You see, unlike every other kid who has participated in the contest for as long as I can remember, Avner Netanyahu is not religious.
Almost a week has passed since Avner Netanyahu came in third in the International Bible Contest, and at the prime minister's house, his parents are still excited. His mother, Sara Netanyahu, spoke with Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on Sunday, and told him that her son's achievement brought much pride to her and her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rabbi Eliyahu said Netanyahu thanked him for the open letter, published on Ynet, in which he praised her for her parenting skills, which led to her son's successful participation in the quiz.

She told the rabbi that investing in the children's education paid off, and that its results were evident, but added that in this case, credit also goes to her father, 96-year-old Shmuel Ben Artzi and her brother, Hagai, who encouraged Avner and helped him study for the competition.

Netanyahu added that the fact that third place was won by a 15-year-old secular boy who goes to high school near the university in Jerusalem, and whose hobbies are sports and theater, proves that the Bible also appeals to non-religious youth, who do not study in yeshivot or seminaries.

She added this has also increased awareness for bible studies among the secular youth.
Read the whole thing. I am actually quite impressed with Avner Netanyahu, and especially with his mother, who unfortunately has been abused by Israel's Leftist media. I suppose it would be too much to expect the media to apologize to Mrs. Netanyahu.

I heard in a Torah class by Rabbi Asher Weiss, who heard from Rabbi Yehuda Cooperman, who heard from Rabbi Yakaov Herzog, that Rabbi Herzog asked Ben Gurion why he allowed religious education in Israel at all, since Ben Gurion and most of the State's founders were rabidly secular. Ben Gurion said, "They won't need it for more than another generation anyway. Their children won't be interested in this kind of schooling. So I decided to make them happy for now." Sixty years later, "this kind of schooling" - religious education - is severely lacking in many quarters in Israel, and it's a lack that we all feel.

As I have mentioned several times, I recently finished reading Daniel Gordis' Saving Israel. Gordis writes that Ben Gurion's removal of Jewish content from the secular education system in Israel was a serious mistake. As a result, many kids today have no idea why we are here and why we belong here. They're what could be called Hebrew-speaking goyim (non-Jews).

I hope that Avner Netanyahu - who is so visible because he is the Prime Minister's son - starts a trend among secular Israelis to learn Tanach (the Bible) and share in our heritage. It's their heritage too.


At 9:14 PM, Blogger Captain.H said...

"As a result, many kids today have no idea why we are here and why we belong here."

Israel isn't alone in this problem of people abandoning faith. Likewise America. I'm a Christian and this is sort of parallel to discussions I've had with secular, agnostic or atheistic fellow Americans (from Christian and one or two from Jewish background), friends and acquaintances of mine.

They're all decent people. They usually say something to me to the effect "I don't believe in God but I do practice traditional Jewish-Christian morals and values."

Fine, but that still leaves the door wide open to moral relativism, as they seek to follow those morals solely because they think them good ideas. Secular leftists follow their morals likewise solely because they think them good ideas.

And where do these secular, agnostic or atheistic folks think these traditional Western morals, these guideposts, came from? Are there flowers without roots?

And do they think this coincidental? That all over the West, as more Jews AND Christians abandon their faith roots that connect us to the divine and nourish these values, (and underpin Western Civilization IMO) secular Western society degenerates directly in proportion?

Seems to me, as a thinking person of faith, with some knowledge of history, the connected decline is pretty obvious. I'm pinning my hope on the fact that small numbers of people of faith have and still can, with Help, move mountains.

At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Captain, a verse to highlight your point:

"And Abraham said, 'For I said, 'Surely, there is no fear of God in this place'..."
- Genesis 20:11

At 11:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its an interesting contrast with the Christian World.

In the copy of Lodowick Allison's edition of Sutherland Bates' classic The Bible Designed To Be Read As Living Literature", that I have, the editor noted that "for generations in the United States, it was the only book every one had read and for many millions the only book they had ever read." In our secular era, its hard to judge how much the Bible influenced the life and thought of the West. The entire civilization of the Western World since the Roman Empire converted to Christianity in the 4th Century CE would have inconceivable without the Bible, which Jerome had translated into Latin, known as The Vulgate, with the help of Jewish scholars.

I bring up this point to stress that for Jews, a knowledge of Torah is important in order to understand why they are here, why obeying G-d is important and what Israel's true mission is in the world. A spiritual education is just as important to the Jewish future as it was for America for the past few centuries and its sadly in danger of being completely forgotten. That's why the revival of Jewishly-oriented religious education in Israel should gladden the heart of observant Jews. To be sure, science, math, technology and culture informs a nation of the possibilities of making the world a better place - but Carl - you and I both know that no nation can survive without a soul. And rediscovering the Bible is the key to Israel's having a moral compass to survive the challenges that face it in this century and far beyond.

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Neshama said...

Isn't this somehow related to what the Greeks allowed: for the Jews to culturally be Jewish WITHOUT being religious?

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Captain.H said...

Thanks, Shy Guy.

And another verse that seems really complementary with this topic and with your Genesis quote is Proverbs 1:7
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..."


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