Living in an Unabashedly Religious Society

Could you imagine public schools in the West teaching kids to acknowledge God and idolize national heroes?

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I’ve been in Israel a long time now. But it still never ceases to amaze me, having come from the “Christian” West, how unabashedly religious Israeli society can be.

Now, take note that we live in a secular part of town, and all the people around us are “secular” Jews.

And yet, at my 5-year-old’s Hanukkah party today the entire class and all the parents were belting out a popular Israeli rendition of Psalm 147:12–13, which reads:

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you.

My daughter does not attend a private school. This is a public, taxpayer-funded kindergarten. And as a matter of course they teach the children to acknowledge and praise God.

And since it was Hanukkah, I was also again struck by how openly Israel hails its national heroes, in this case the leaders of the Maccabean Revolt that brought about the restoration of the Temple.

I simply can’t imagine this taking place today in my home country of America.

Children can barely mention the word “God” in school, let alone pray. And any teacher who dared to actually instruct his or her students to acknowledge the Most High would be dismissed on the spot.

The attitude toward national heroes is similar. Sure, American students learn about their nation’s historical figures and what they did. But there is no praise and adoration, no deep desire to emulate those actions.

I have never seen an American child praise the exploits of say, Theodor Roosevelt, in the way I see these kids every year lifting aloft the memory of Judah Maccabee.

It simply wouldn’t be politically correct.


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