The Hesder Quiz: Where is Israel?

By Mahmoud El-Yousseph

Here is something you’re not likely to see on evening newscasts or your home town newspapers: A July 28, 2010 survey of Israeli religious school teachers, designed to gauge their level of education, was conducted by Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest newspaper. The conclusions were shocking.

One young teacher described the Jewish religious school, called a Hesder, where he works one hour per week and earns $300 monthly as follows: "We do not teach math, science, English, history or literature. After morning prayer, we teach the Torah only."

Israel spends 7 million dollars annually on these schools and the government often receives fake and fraudulent progress reports in return.

The newspaper quiz consisted of the following questions:

1- What continent is Israel in?

2- Who was Napoleon Bonaparte? – Was he a Russian Emperor? A French military leader? Or The Chief-of-Staff?

3- What is the square root of 81?

4- Finish the National Anthem.

5- What is the meaning of the English word "Saturday"? – Is it the religious Shabat? Is it the name for a month of the year? Or is it a name for meal?

Many participants could not finish the national anthem.

Some commented, "I do not and know and don’t wish to know."

Others asked if the national anthem is a verse in the Talmud.

About the question on Napoleon, some said he was a Russian Emperor, while other respondents claimed he was the Chief of Staff.

In response to the question about Saturday, 65% did not know the correct answer.

Finally, here is my favorite one. In response to the question, "where is Israel located," many respondents answered "in Europe."

What a shocker! That really blew me away!

After having read about the survey, I posed the same 5 questions to my 17 year-old son, Adam. Adam zoomed through them all, but did not get the one about their national anthem. For that, I could care less as long as he knows our national anthem.

You may have heard the term "Madrasah" referring to Islamic schools in Pakistan. This is actually the Arabic word for secular or religious school, and they have been bombed few years ago by the U.S. and then by the Pakistani army many times over. Many men, women and children lost their lives during those raids. Madrasah are depicted by our government and the media alike as "terrorist training camps." Looks like Hesder schools are getting a pass, not to mention immunity from media critics.

Remember the name Yigal Amir? He was a former Hesder student. Amir was a religious Zionist who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin on November 4, 1995 at the end of a peace rally in Tell Aviv. Amir was an adamant critic of the Rabin peace treaty and the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Religious settlers are also responsible for terrorizing Palestinian farmers daily in the West Bank; they are the ones who uproot olive trees, destroy crops, poison wells and routinely assault international peace activists.

They are among the soldiers who man the 520 check points, block roads in the occupied Palestinian Territory and several crossing points around Gaza Strip and who enjoy humiliating Palestinians on a daily basis.

Like it or not, these schools in Israel are funded by US tax dollars, as part of 3 billion dollar annual US aid package to Israel. One of their major sponsors in the U.S are the right-wing fanatical Christians-Zionists. Why does the idiomatic expression, “birds of a feather flock together" spring to mind? This is the very same group that was recently described in an article by British journalist Lauren Booth as "the people who could not find their cities on the map of their state." Miss Booth happens to be the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

One more time, next time someone asks you the question, "Where is Israel?" the more accurate answer would be: It is located in the heart of the Arab world. It was built illegally in 1948 on stolen Palestinian land and on the ruin of hundreds of towns and villages that have been erased from the face of the earth so the native inhabitants will never have a chance to return back home and to what is rightfully theirs.

– Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a retired USAF veteran. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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