Monday, April 27, 2009

Why The Begin Center Engages in Educational Activity

Students: Ben-Gurion was Israel's 1st president

New study reveals 60% of high school students don't know who State's first prime minister was.
Survey's conductor unsurprised by figures: 'Today's youth reads less and would rather go out and watch television'

Who was Israel's first president? David Ben-Gurion. What was his nickname? Davidka. Who wrote Israel's national anthem – "Hatikva"? Chaim Nachman Bialik. At least this is what 10th to 12th graders in Israel believe.

These embarrassing findings, which point to the students' ignorance in terms of the State of Israel's history, were revealed in a survey conducted by Prof. David Chen, an advisor to the Education Ministry on core studies, who serves as dean of the School of Education in the Academic College of Or Yehuda. The study was held among 527 students.

The findings show that only 39% of the respondents knew that Ben-Gurion was Israel's first prime minister, 49% thought that Davidka (a homemade Israeli mortar used during the War of Independence) was Ben-Gurion's nickname (he was really called 'the old man'), 39% said Ben-Gurion was Israel's first president, and only 34% knew the correct answer – Chaim Weizmann.

What happened on November 29th? Only 39% knew that was the day the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the division of the Land of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab one.

As for "Hatikva", 35.5% of the students believe that the anthem was written by Israel's national poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, 19% said it was written by Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, and only 45% gave the correct answer: Naftali Herz Imber.

Only 26% knew that Yigal Allon was one of the commanders of the Palmach (combat unit of the Hagana during the British Mandate period and the War of Independence), and only 19% knew that Dov Gruner was a member of the Irgun (the "National Military Organization in the Land of Israel") who was executed. The rest thought he was a Palmach member of a government minister.

An Education Ministry official said in response to the grim findings, "We are unsatisfied with these figures. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar plans to lead a policy which will strengthen this component among the students."

The survey's conductor said, "I am not surprised, as the education system does not emphasize enough the studies of history and civics. The youth today reads less and is busy going out and watching soap operas.

"School trips take the students to Eilat, where they run wild at hotels instead of touring and getting to know the places where the history of the State's establishment took place."
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