Enrollment in academic programs focusing on Israel’s history and culture, among other topics, has dropped significantly over the last few years, according to colleges and universities across the country.
The Kinneret Academic College, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel’s north, reported just 20 students have registered to major in Land of Israel studies this year compared to 35 in 2010.
Bar-Ilan University, located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, reported just 72 students had enrolled in its Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Department in 2021 compared to 248 in 2010.
“In recent years, the demand for practical degrees has risen, and accordingly, a decrease in registration for humanities, including the Land of Israel Studies Department, has been seen,” said Ashkelon Academic College President professor Haim Breitbart. “In response, we have acted in every way possible to attract and interest students in Land of Israel studies. Unfortunately, the number of students who register is on the decline, and in practice, Land of Israel studies are disappearing from the academic map in Israel.”
Some, however, say it isn’t too late for the field to recover.
“From an economic perspective, the state must actively encourage registration to humanities departments in general and Land of Israel studies in particular, while creating scholarship channels and other innovative means. All this, out of a desire to preserve these academic ‘nature reserves,’ which are struggling against very strong market forces and government institutions that do not seem to sufficiently grasp their meaning and vitality for society and the state,” said Reuven Gefni, who heads the Kinneret Academic College’s Land of Israel Studies Department.
“The state and Cabinet must understand a country cannot be based in terms of education solely on engineering and high-tech fields—as significant to the state’s economy as they may be—and that its identity and future depend to a great extent both on content related to Israel and its past, beginning at the youngest ages, through high school and including academic studies and educational frameworks for the broader population,” he said.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.