Friday, March 12, 2010

The Forward on the Israel Heritage Plan

THE FORWARD on the Israel Heritage Plan:
Whose History?

Published March 10, 2010, issue of March 19, 2010.

The diagnosis is correct. The prescription is troubling. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wise to be concerned about the weakening Jewish identity of many Israelis, an issue for Jews everywhere but especially poignant in what is supposed to be the national homeland. The powerful collective identity forged during the early years of Israel’s modern existence has given way to a splintered sense of self, particularly among the young.

But his proposed national heritage project, aimed at preserving Jewish artifacts and teaching schoolchildren about Jewish and Zionist history, is a flawed response. Estimated to cost the equivalent of $100 million, the project has been duly criticized for including sites in the disputed cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. There’s a deeper concern, however.

The thrust of the project appears to be in telling only one narrative, the Jewish one, as if no other kinds of people ever lived on the land. A quick trip to any archaeological site will counter that notion.