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The Human spirit: local journey

Jerusalempost, Barbara Sofer 5/9/13

The teens sit cross-legged in a circle on the stones of a Jerusalem archeological park. Tour guide Adi Yaakobi, 25, a bare-headed sabra from Bat Yam, places a thick book in the center.

“Does anyone not know what this book is?” he asks. If anyone is unsure, he or she isn’t is admitting it. “Please stand and move as close to or as far away from this book as you feel,” Yaakobi instructs them.

The boys and girls hop to their feet and arrange themselves accordingly. About half cluster around the book; the others scattering themselves to show how distant they feel. New assignment from the guide: “How much do you know about this book? Reposition yourself according to how much you know.”

There’s a lot of movement. Some of the youngsters feel more than they know; for others it’s the opposite. Still others don’t move. There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between knowledge and emotional proximity. 

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The book is a Tanach, the Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings – the canon of 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, compiled two millennia ago. It’s an edition with a plastic cover, the kind these high-school students are likely to get when they’re sworn into the IDF, as did my husband several decades ago.

These are Israeli 11th graders, nearly all sabras. They seem physically fit – they’ve spent the morning walking in David’s City – and they’re smart. They ask intelligent questions about Robertson’s Arch when Yaakobi explains how once it carried traffic from the lower market to the esplanade on the Mount. Good officer material, I think.

They live in Tel Mond, a prosperous, middle class town in the Sharon region.

Their school, named for the late Yitzhak Rabin, describes itself on the city website as taking a pluralistic approach to Jewish education, with respect and openness to different interpretations.

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