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September 24, 2016, by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

President and Minister of Education Encourage Bible Study in School

You might have guessed we are not talking about the United States of America.  We are reporting about Israel.  Minister of Education, Naphtali Bennett and President Benjamin Natanyahu have both during the past few weeks stressed the importance of Bible study in the Israeli school system.

The reasoning behind such a stand should not surprise us, but it may well inform us.  Minister Bennett stated, “It is not enough to be solely the nation of startup.  We must also be the people of the Bible.”  He reminded Israelis that their primary mandate was “to be a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6).  ‘For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.’”

Natanyahu agreed. “This (the Bible) is the basis for why we are here, why we have returned here, why we stay here.”

Bennett made clear why he believed Bible study is of superior importance for Israeli education.  “Learning about Judaism and excellence in the subject is more important in my eyes than mathematics and the sciences.  Even though Israel is a high-tech superpower, an exporter of knowledge and innovation to the world, we must also be a spiritual superpower and export spiritual knowledge to the world.”

When our Founding Fathers wrote into our Declaration of Independence the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” they had in mind a specific concept of God taught in a specific sacred text, namely the Bible.  The idea of “liberty” may flash in our minds as a political concept but it is not.  It is essentially a religious concept.  It envelops what we know as free will.  It allows a person to choose and it requires others to respect that right and not force conformity.  It does not require us to agree.  It does require us to allow, within limits, others to be wrong, at least in our own thinking.  Liberty allows us to attempt persuasion.  It does not allow us to force conformity.

What happens to a culture founded on this concept of God and on the worldview presented in the Bible when these foundations begin to crumble?  I saw a tote bag at the museum store at Longwood Gardens on my visit to my daughter that put it somewhat humorously until you thought about the implications.   Imprinted on the bag were the words, “I am a very tolerant person so long as I get absolutely everything I desire.”  Something is missing here.  We call it “liberty.”

When I was a child we read the Bible at the beginning of every school day.  If you are wondering, I was born in 1931.  That was not Bible study, but it was something that recognized the Bible as the foundation of our democracy.  We jettisoned that practice in the fifties with some suggestions for replacing it with curriculum changes which would study the Bible as literature.  That never happened.   The idea that the Bible is the bed rock of our democracy is out of sight for most Americans.  Not so for Israel.  At least some of their leaders do understand.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs