Ideology in Place Descriptions

Values and Ideology in Place Descriptions in Geography Schoolbooks


From the social perspective, states saw a need to include geography as a subject in school when nationalism in Europe in the 19th century was at its peak — in order to assist in achieving the political goals of nationalism (Capel 1981). It seems, therefore, that the territorial connection of the student to his or her homeland is one of the goals of geographical education; this connection lies hidden in curricula and school textbooks.

School textbooks are central to the process of territorial socialization (Duchacek 1970). These texts contain the ideological consensus which allows them to become accepted and desirable in the education system. Because these texts are written and edited by educated, scientific people, one can assume that they insisted on the reliability of the information presented in the books. However, one can assume that their writing is also affected by the acceptance of the ideological conventions under whose influence they acted. The authors of the textbooks are not always aware of the ideological influence which directed their writing, and often this influence was unconscious. Therefore, the maps and the texts of the textbooks contain subjective , linguistic and cartographical leanings which are the influence of the controlling ideologies at work in the education system (see, for example, Hicks 1981, Henley 1989, Gilbert 1989).

The place descriptions in geography textbooks can be combine with the current perspective in cultural geography. According to this perspective (Meinig 1979; Barens and Duncan 1992; Duncan and Lay 1993; and Gold and Ward 1994), human attitudes towards places are subjective, and are constructed by individual experience. The individual builds his perception of various places according to the degree of exposure which he has to the various representations of a place. These representations (visual or textual), are dependent on historical time, culture and ideology.

From these assumptions, the purpose of this article becomes clear: to demonstrate how the attitude to places in geography textbooks has changed, according to the ideology and worldview governing the Zionist education system. Of about 200 geography textbooks written in Hebrew, 1920-1990, about one-third are dedicated to the subject of the Land of Israel. The descriptions and attitudes towards places in Israel have been taken from these books, and this article deals with the ideologically charged representation of these places.


The Zionist movement was the flagship of territorial socialization until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The establishment of the state was a turning point in modern Jewish history, because some goals of the Zionist movement were achieved, and an independent political entity with international recognition was established. The state itself continued the territorial education in order to increase the citizens’ identification with the territory.

In the years which passed from the beginnings of Zionist settlement in Palestine in the second half of the 19th century until the end of the British mandate in 1948, the ideological and organizational foundations of the Zionist education system were laid. In this period, there was a politicization of education and an emphasis on the ideological purposes of education in general and geographical education specifically. Geography was seen as a subject which must assist in establishing a connection for the children of immigrants with their new country, by emphasizing the Zionist aspect of the subject. Geography was not only intended to convey knowledge about the Land of Israel, but also, principally, to assist children’s emotional absorption in the country, through transferal of knowledge about Israel’s landscapes. The general principles of the Zionist movement were translated practically into three ideological commentaries: liberal, socialist, and religious. Each of these was pushed by different political parties which existed within the Zionist movement, and each one had a separate chain of primary and high schools. Each political stream emphasized its own principles in its curricula, and therefore one can also discern the political commentary about geography in the textbooks which were written at the same period (Bar-Gal 1993).

The establishment of the state of Israel led to the immigration of hundreds of thousands of people in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including refugees of the Holocaust in Europe and Jews from Islamic countries. These immigrants who reached Israel presented the educational system with great challenges. In order to face these challenges, two laws were passed: the law of compulsory education, and the law of governmental education, which united all of the streams of education into two kinds of schools: governmental-secular and governmental-religious. (In addition to these, a chain of independent educational schools exists for the ultra-Orthodox community). In the educational laws, the principal goal of governmental education was determined, namely, that it must be based on:

“The cultural values of Israel and scientific achievements; on love of the motherland and devotion to the State of Israel and the people of Israel; on belief in agricultural work and labor; on pioneering skills; on the ambition to build a society based on freedom, equality, tolerance, mutual assistance and love of one’s fellow man.”

(Curriculum 1954, p. 5).

The central educational ideological goal was Jewish and Israeli, and within it existed the geographical dimension (love of the homeland). Other values are liberal (freedom and tolerance), socialist (equality, mutual assistance), and pioneering values. All of these values had to be expressed in the various curricula, and in the textbooks which were created at that period. However, in the field of geography the curricula emphasized the nationalist goals as the principle goal.

In the geography textbooks, various places are represented in conjunction with their ideological value. The selection process of the material in the textbook, in other words, the selection of the places and the ways in which they are presented, is connected to the personalities of the book authors and their socio-political worldview. Interesting places, from the point of view of the author, are described in depth, while other places receive relatively less discussion. Also, evaluation of the places is accomplished through contrasts and use of adjectives to describe their nature. Places which are highly esteemed are described with positive expressions, such as order, beauty, health, plenitude and happiness; in contrast, other places are described with expressions such as filth, poverty, sickness, neglect and sadness.

Textbooks present dozens of locations and it is impossible to discuss them all. We have therefore chosen to present the places in which the texts tend to emphasize and present extensive descriptions. Each such “place” represents itself, but it also is a symbol in the Zionist settlement in Israel: Jerusalem, due to its central role in the Jewish and Zionist consciousness, and Tel Aviv, the first Zionist city. The former represents the old body of Jewish settlement in Palestine, the religious-historical center, Jewish continuity in time and place; the latter represents renewal, an original creation of the Zionist revival movement, a center of economic and social activity. The first moshava (the private settlements) which were founded in Palestine at the end of the 19th century (such as Hadera, Rishon LeZion, Petach Tikva) represent the start of the settlement revolution, the struggle with a hostile environment, and also represent individualism and capitalism, worldviews which were pushed away by the socialist ideology, which later became dominant in the Zionist movement (1920-80). Rural cooperative settlements such as the kibbutz or moshav were established especially after the first world war (such as Nahalal, Ein Harod, and Degania). They became symbols of socialist Zionism, and made a great contribution to the rural-cultural landscape of the Land of Israel.


The holiness of Jerusalem, and its role in Jewish identity, were very strong for thousands of years. Therefore, it is not surprising that from the establishment of the first Jewish schools in Palestine, in the third part of the 19th century, the description of Jerusalem took an important place in textbooks, besides its place in religion and in various prayers. It must be remembered that Jerusalem of the late 19th century was a walled city, including the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions, as well as living quarters of the various believers — Muslims, Christians and Jews. In the last quarter of the 19th century, people began to expand beyond the walls of the Old City and build new neighborhoods, from which the new city of Jerusalem developed, which is mainly Jewish. In 1948, following the War of Independence, the city was divided into old Jerusalem, which was annexed by the Kingdom of Jordan, and the western part of the city, new Jerusalem, which became the capital of the State of Israel. Following the 1967 Six Day War, the city was reunited.

The textbooks which represent Jerusalem are not indifferent to the city, and the descriptions in the texts are accompanied by positive and negative evaluations. On the one hand, Jerusalem is represented as the historical link, the connection of generations to the land, and the redemption of Israel; on the other hand, it is represented as old world, as having patterns of life from which pioneering Zionism tried to distance itself. Most of the books relate to the city’s past and describe the Old City, but after 1948, and especially after the Six Day War, changes took place in the attitude towards Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem of the beginning of the century is represented in Grazowski (1903), mainly in historical perspective. The author discusses the central problem of the city for many generations — water. He also draws a picture of a pathetic city, without commerce or significant sources of income: “Many of the Jewish residents of the city. . . especially the old and the weak, receive handouts, which is the support sent by our brothers from all corners of the world” (p. 20).

On the other hand, Tzusmer represented the city in 1918 from the perspective of religious Zionism, which is rooted in many years of Diaspora: “How many ancient memories and glorious hopes for the future are linked with this name? Each stone in it, each footfall, represents a page in the book of our great history” (p.197). His assessment of the city is dualistic: “However, Jerusalem does not have any more the glory of Kingdoms . . . Its face is dark, it glory has been changed, it has rejoiced and become a wasteland. . . Its streets are now narrow and dark, its houses old and crowded, and only shreds of its antiquities recall its early honor and its ancient wealth” (p. 197).

“Its streets are now narrow and dark, its houses old and crowded” was the set pattern of treatment in the descriptions of the old city of Jerusalem. They created an image of a poor, abandoned city, in comparison to Tel Aviv. The Jews of Jerusalem were described as a multi-ethnic group of people, whose common denomination was “pale, white faces. . . every tongue whispering a prayer.” Tzusmer changed the city’s image slightly when he described the new neighborhoods located outside its walls and the early British attempts to rehabilitate the water and sewage system in the city after its capture.(1918). In comparison to the sorrowful present of the city, he commented, that in the future Jerusalem will be considered “one of the best places in the world for humans to live on the face of the earth” (p.202).

Renewal of the city, as a Zionist message, is an important basis in the descriptions of Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s. Several authors emphasize the building projects, especially the cultural and educational institutions founded there (Metropolitanski 1921, p. 219; Blanc 1930, p. 113) but the building projects were not only an example of the Zionist value of the city of Jerusalem, but also of the changes which took place in its residents:

“The various ethnic groups are differentiated from one another in their customs and dress, but they are linked to one unit. In particular, the feeling of unity among the various Jewish groups is strengthened by the spread of the Zionist movement and the national revival, by speaking the Hebrew language and by education in Hebrew schools” (Kamenetzky 1922, p. 42).

Another geographer, A.Y. Brawer, wrote textbooks which were studied for dozens of years. Because he was a religious man, he very much appreciated old Jerusalem: “A beautiful and clean city was Jerusalem before its destruction [70 AD]. Its streets were paved with stone and they were honored every day” (1936, p. 78). Beauty and cleanliness, which are clearly positive landscape symbols, which Brawer attributed to the city’s past, stand in complete opposition to the appearance of the old city in his time. Jerusalem outside the walls was not perceived as important by Brawer, in comparison to its other parts.

The concept of the holiness and splendor of the city in olden days, in contrast to its day-to-day grayness and pathos, are repeated over and over in the textbooks which were written later. One of the important motifs which the textbook authors used to create images of the landscape is the motif of light and darkness. Darkness and grayness aid in creating the image of an abandoned, frightening place, while light, or “darkness which is disintegrating” directs the student to the most important place, the holy site, symbolized by light. The light-darkness motif does not characterize only Jerusalem. It also appears in descriptions of other Zionist settlements, especially Tel Aviv. It is possible that the use of the light motif can be explained by the homelands of the textbook authors, where the climates were different from that of the Land of Israel. But light is not only the strong radiation of the sun of the Israeli land, but also a meaningful cultural symbol representing beauty, exaltedness, holiness, happiness, good and more.

In the late 1930s the textbook authors’, who belonged to the socialist and liberal stream of education, began to describe at great length the new Jerusalem, by decreasing their treatment of the Old City. In the description Jerusalem the same urban elements which symbolize the Zionist renewal are emphasized. The description of the new city is selective, and it stems from the nationalist-Zionist perception which directed their writing: emphasis on the present, pragmatic action, building the country and its “Hebrewness”. In a similar worldview but with a different style, Enoch (1947) describes Jerusalem. concentrate on the new city, the public buildings and the institutions of government.

The end of the British mandate, the announcement of independence and the naming of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel (1948) gave it a central political role. The battles between the Jews and the Arabs over control of the city and the roads leading to it, and the suffering of the Jewish residents who lived in siege, added a dimension of bravery to its image. In the textbooks which were written after 1948, the city’s history from the 1948 War emphasized an educational message:

“The people of Jerusalem bravely faced the siege [1948] and stood all of the ceaseless attacks and bombings. The young fighters attacked the Arab strongholds from which they fired towards the Jewish quarters, and their conquest after bitter and bloody battles” (Paporisch 1960, p. 102).

Expressions such as “bravery,” “hardship,” and “sacrifice” had not been associated with the city of Jerusalem until then in the textbooks. They were reserved for the description of the Zionist pioneering settlement. It seems, then, that the War of Independence in Jerusalem brought about the inclusion of Jerusalem in the “club” of settlement of the pioneering frontier, a club which was defined by the struggle for the right to settle in the homeland and to own it, and the textbooks communicate this ideological message.

The War of Independence added, therefore, a dimension of bravery and self-sacrifice to the religious and historical aspects of the city. The city was divided, and the eastern part of the city, the Old City included the Western Wall was left in the hands of Jordan. This political and geographic division forced the textbook authors to write: “Only from a distance can we look at the glory of our past which is in the hands of strangers. When our hearts go out to this ancient city, to Jerusalem, thousands of years old whose memory is linked with our people and is holy to us until today.” (Shaked 1965, p. 79). The author continued describing the old city and the lifestyles within it, as they existed until 1948.

In the years from the establishment of the state until the Six Day War, there was a distinct tendency in the textbooks to prefer the new city in the description of Jerusalem and to emphasize its centrality as the capital of the State of Israel. The Six Day War brought about a new connection – the new city was connected to the old. The unification of the city provided again opportunity to give an educational message: Orni and Efrat (1972) extensively describe the destruction of the Jordanian period, as opposed to the development and renewal which characterized the city after its liberation.

“Within the old city the most fundamental rehabilitation work was necessary in the Jewish quarter, which had been neglected and which the Jordanian authorities fouled deliberately, through demolition of the traditional elaborate synagogues. The offensive alleyways near the Western Wall were eliminated and a plaza for prayers was opened in the holiest place of Judaism” (p 294).

By comparing the books written in the period before the Six Day War to those written afterwards, it seems that the year 1967 was a watershed in terms of attitudes towards the city. Harel and Hir (1965) describe the city briefly with an emphasis on the historical aspect, but their book did not assign Jerusalem a central role, compared to Tel Aviv. In the 1970s and 1980s, on the other hand, Jerusalem received a central role once more, in which the Zionist values of development and building the country were expressed. Jerusalem, until 1967, was described as a formal capital, as a border city and as a peripheral area, which returned to its greatness after 1967, as an important place in the Land of Israel.

The textbooks surveyed above were intended for the governmental sector and the governmental-religious schools. The description of Jerusalem within them is completely different from that of the ultra-orthodox schools. In the latter, the religious-traditional aspect of the city is emphasized. In Samet’s book, The Good Land (1961), western Jerusalem is the city of the Bible, and its central neighborhoods are the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) religious neighborhoods. Jerusalem is represented in these books not as the capital of the State of Israel, but as the capital of the entire Jewish people – since ancient times and through today. (Samet, p. 43). And thus the author represents the principal public institutions as all being related to religion, and not to the governmental functioning of the city. In other words, there is no place for a description of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel or of Jerusalem’s secular institutions in the textbooks used by the Haredi educational system.

In summery, from the beginning of the century through the present day, textbooks represent Jerusalem in various ways, in accordance with the ideological perspectives of the textbook authors. Usually, before 1948, the city’s historical aspects were represented, and the lifestyles of its Jewish residents were described. Between 1948 – 1967, the city received additional positive characteristics, related to Jewish heroism and the struggle for Israeli independence. From 1967 onwards, Jerusalem became a focus for Zionist values, as it represented development and rehabilitation. The new Jewish Jerusalem, located outside the walls of the Old City, received positive appraisal from the beginning of the century: it represents the renewal of the Hebrew settlement, Zionism, and building up of the country. After 1948, the new city of Jerusalem represents Israeli sovereignty and government, first as a peripheral border city, and later as a central city whose parts had been reunited.


Tel Aviv represents the principal economic, social, modern and secular core of Israel. It was founded in 1909 as a Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of the city, Jaffa, and flourished mainly in the 1920s and 1930s, when Jewish immigrants from Europe settled there. As opposed to Jerusalem, which received various evaluations in the various textbooks, Tel Aviv consistently received high appraisals from the beginning of the century. In the 1920s, the city grew quickly and made a great impression on the textbook authors, who gave Tel Aviv titles of beauty and wrote lovely descriptions of it. From the mid-1930s through the 1970s, the city had a prominent place in the textbooks.

Jaffa at first, and later Tel Aviv, were perceived as cities excelling in economic activity and in cultural and social creativity. Dynamism was described as particularly characteristic of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, in opposition to the rigidity and conservatism which characterized the descriptions of Jerusalem for many years.

Tel Aviv is presented in an approach which was intended to create feelings of admiration and solidarity in the student; Tel Aviv was a positive place with a western culture:

“Tel Aviv is the show-stopper of the whole new Hebrew [Jewish-Zionist] settlement, a European oasis in the desert of Asia. As if in a dream, one could pass suddenly to one of the most beautiful, quiet spots in one of the beach cities in Europe: lines of straight, paved roads. On both sides, the streets are lined with trees and flower gardens. Everything here is new and polished. The sun shines brightly and warmly on the shining homes and on the cheery children who fill the air with laughter and singing and joyfulness” (Tzusmer, 1918, p.192).

When Tzusmer wrote these words, Tel Aviv was still a small neighborhood of Jaffa, after the events of the First World War. However, Tel Aviv represented for him European values: order, cleanliness, aesthetics. The author expressed his positive attitude to Tel Aviv by using terms related to the sun (light and heat) and described a western oasis, full of happiness and joy, within the “desert of Asia.”

Tzusmer’s approach to Tel Aviv is replicated by other authors, who wrote in the Diaspora of the 1920s and 1930s: for them, Tel Aviv is the most beautiful city in all the new Zionist settlement. The aesthetic appreciation of Tel Aviv is always linked to clear-cut European ideas: straight, paved roads, well-built homes in good taste, and flower gardens. The symbols of western culture can be seen in every corner, even “on the corners of the streets, where Hebrew signs are posted: Rehov Yehuda Halevi, Rehov Ahad HaAm” (Blanc 1930, p. 116).

The Hebrew textbook authors, who appeared in the Land of Israel in the 1930s, perceived Tel Aviv as a symbol of additional phenomena linked to “Hebrewness”. Thus, because of the growth of population, Tel Aviv developed the character of an urban, dynamic and active city, and became the center of the cultural and economic life of Zionist settlement. A.Y. Brawer claimed that the fact that Tel Aviv is a Zionist city, almost all of whose residents are Jewish, is an attraction to the Diaspora Jews, who prefer Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (Brawer, 1936, p. 96). Enoch added to “Hebrewness” the the building up of the country. Tel Aviv is not only a city with Jewish residents, but also the biggest city in the world which was built entirely by Jews, and whose affairs are run entirely by them (Enoch 1947, p. 26).

The Jewish work in establishing Tel Aviv represents the Zionist ideal of greening the desert and transforming the wilderness. Avivi and Idelman emphasize this, as they tell of the building of Tel Aviv in a place which was “previously sandy desert, where only roaming camels and wild Bedouins had set foot”. The terms “sandy desert,” “wilderness” and “wild,” used by Avivi and Idelman to describe the city’s location, were intended to emphasize the success of the Jews in building up of the country and redemption of its lands: civilization replaced wilderness, and this was accomplished with the help of the Zionist vision which led to the establishment of the city:

“And so it is impossible not to love a city built by Jewish hands. Its workers, clerks and police are all Jews: a city whose residents speak only Hebrew! Tel Aviv is the most beautiful of them all, the wide streets, the white polished houses, and the gardens adjoining them, are filled with a particular grace”

(Avivi and Idelman 1938, p.26).

Tel Aviv was therefore not only a “European oasis within the desert of Asia,” as the textbook authors in the Diaspora believed, but also a symbol of Zionism, in terms of its construction and its new Jewish way of life: “On Saturday, the residents of Tel Aviv wake up to synagogues and sun-bathing at the sea. The seashore draws adults and children by the thousands. Bathing is a particular pleasure. Suntanned children, lively and gay, run between the golden-blue waves and spray one another with water” ( p. 43). The new lifestyle, well-known in the figures of the children of the city — they are happy, tanned and healthy. These children are witness to the success of the Zionist dream in general, and the city of Tel Aviv in paticular. Therefore, Schiffman believes (1946), that: “the creation of Tel Aviv is one of the most wonderful creations which our people has ever made in this generation in the renewed Land of Israel. It demonstrates the great power of creation located in our people, which aims to revive itself in its ancient land and to transform a deserted hill into wonderful Tel Aviv” (Schiffman 1946, p. 82).

The books reviewed thus far reveal a positive attitude toward the city of Tel Aviv, as a city which represented Zionism’s ability to transform the landscape of Israel through the creation of an active urban center with economic and cultural power. The uniform description of this city is especially obvious, in comparison to the more mixed description of Jerusalem.

The writing style of the textbooks in Israel changed in the late 1950s, when graduates of university geography departments began to write textbooks, and the writing became more scientific. This change did not affect the evaluation of the city. Despite it being a metropolis with particular social problems — social polarization, poverty, traffic jams, etc.– the textbooks did not find any reason to write about these issues. All the new textbooks emphasized its centrality in industry, finance and cultural life. It seems, then, that for years the positive attitude to Tel Aviv did not change, but rather took on a new dimention. Thus write Harel and Nir:

“The city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, as a metropolis, the largest and most populated in Israel, neighboring the ocean and the center of the country, provides a powerful core for the building and creative powers in Israel. In it, the principal service and health services exist[. . . ]Therefore, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is like a magnet which draws a workforce, knowledge, and capital to the varied group of workers located within it [. . . ] who each find their place within the city and thereby within Israel.” (1965, p. 260).

How can the gap between the socialist worldview, which emphasizes equality, and the positive description of Tel Aviv as a place of the greatest social polarization in Israel be explained? It is possible that the answer to is located in the fact that the growth of Tel Aviv made a strong impression on the textbook authors, who were mostly city dwellers themselves. Tel Aviv was the center of the Land of Israel for them, an original creation with social and economic strength, to which negative adjectives could not be attached. The radical view, which presents the dark side of the city with its social and economic problems, did not leave a mark in the textbooks. The dominant line remained thus: Tel Aviv was the symbol of “Hebrewness”, a creative deed which demonstrates Zionism’s strength and vitality.


The evaluations of Tel Aviv in the textbooks expressed Zionist view: the city answered the value-related expectations originating in European culture (creativity, construction, assessment of strength). One may assume that the variety in Zionist ideology would be expressed in the attitude toward the rural settlement, in which two worldviews conflict with one another: individualism versus collectivism.

Until the early 1930s, the Zionist village was identified in textbooks with moshava ( the individual settlement) because the creation of the moshav (the co-operative settlement) and the kibbutz (the collective settlement) occurred mainly in the 1920s and the approach to them could not appear in textbooks before then. The early textbook authors were excited by the spectacle of Jewish farmers working the land in the moshava. The farmers were immigrants, from cities in Eastern Europe, who changed their lifestyles. The textbooks often described the beauty of the new rural settlements, and emphasized the struggle of the pioneers and the conquering of the wilderness.

From the 1930s, the attitude in the textbooks changed, and the cooperative rural settlement received preference as opposed to the individual settlements (moshavot). The kibbutz and the moshav were types of settlement preferred by the Zionist Organization, because they demonstrated their vitality in the conquering of the wilderness in the Land of Israel. The policy of preferring the collective village (kibbutz) seeped through to the textbooks and was transferred as an educational message to the young generation. The textbook authors did not directly promote the collective life style and did not always take a clear position concerning the principles of cooperation and equality, but the kibbutz and moshav always received a higher evaluation then the individual settlements. The description of the pioneer settlement was transferred from the moshava to the cooperative settlements, through use of a similar system of symbols: wilderness, swamps, rocky ground, the plough, and the tree.

The texts which discuss the moshav and the kibbutz do not describe in depth their special characters , but rather spend more time discussing their principles and social values. Work and creativity are presented as a supreme value: “Everyone works on the kibbutz, even the elderly […] they all work in various jobs” (Avivi and Idelman 1938, p. 163). On the moshav, the work does not stop even when one of the members is ill: “A special committee supervises to insure that the work is done on time and the economy will not suffer because of the member’s illness” (p. 158). The value of work is not only important for adults. Children, too, are willing to sacrifice their holidays and work in the field, and so they hoped that the students would adopt these positive values: placing a high value on work, especially agricultural work, taking personal responsibility, etc.

Sometimes, the directly positive evaluations are awakened with the help of many superlatives: “the group and the kibbutz excel in their merits, the degree of hospitality is extremely developed there. They care for the elderly parents of the members. . . They are always willing to accept new immigrants and arrange work for them” (Schiffman 1947, p. 60). The great appreciation led the author to re-evaluate Zionist history and to emphasize the place of collectivism in the conquering of the wilderness, in place of individualistic settlement. Only the “pioneers,” who had founded cooperative settlements, could create a new type of “healthy Jew,” the model character who works the land and lives from the sweat of his brow. Presenting the history of settlement in Israel this way emphasizes the historical “watershed” — in the past, there were agricultural Jewish settlements, the moshava, but these were now seen as peripheral, and when it was necessary to really conquer the wilderness, only cooperative settlement succeeded in doing this.

After the establishment of the State of Israel (1948), the settlement policies promoted the establishment of cooperative settlements (moshav) for the goal of spreading out the population, absorbing immigrants and conquering the wilderness. Hundreds of cooperative settlements were founded between 1948-1967 in the peripheral and border areas. In the same time period, the process of urbanization of the mosahavot (the individual settlements) on the coastal plain accelerated, and they transformed from rural to urban settlements, through a change in employment from agriculture to typical urban employment. The significance of the moshav and the kibbutz emphasized, as a type of settlement in accord with the Zionist ideology. It is therefore no wonder that the textbooks in the 1950s and early 1960s continued to pass on the previous message that cooperative settlement best allowed for the realization of pioneering efforts and the social aspects of Zionism. Despite all that has been said thus far, it should be said that from the early 1960s, authors approached the description of types of rural settlement from a more objective perspective. Their writing style went from a subjective evaluation to a more scientific evaluation, emphasizing elements such as structure of the economy, land use, social principles and their influence on planning, settlement structures and demography (Paporisch 1960, Harel and Nir 1965, Orni and Efrat 1972). The authors often used maps of land use and maps describing the structure of the village to emphasize geographical differences between the various types of settlements.

The attitude to villages in the modern textbooks can be ascribed to changes in the educational worldview: textbooks must be objective, the writing style must be more scientific and without bias. This change is related to the reform in education of the 1960s. The change could also be explained as linked to the social change which occurred in the State of Israel. According to Shapira (1988), the establishment of the state created new social challenges and values, which socialist Zionism could not address:

“The mass immigration changed the composition of the Jewish population in Israel, and also raised up the classes with a cautious bourgeois, individualistic or traditional worldview[. . .]The development and growth of the Israeli economy and its transformation into a free, western style economy, strengthened and supported personal, achievement-oriented, competitive, materialistic principles. The values necessary for a crisis, including the collective pioneering ethos, seemed unnecessary when the Jewish people reached its ‘peace’ within the United States and achieved its ‘inheritance’ with Israel” (p. 373).

Accepting Shapira’s thesis allows us to explain the change in attitude towards the village expressed in the textbooks, ideological factors, and the changing face of the Israeli society. In this light, we can also explain the high esteem given to cooperative settlement in the textbooks, which were published in the past: the rise in the Labor movement (1930-1980) and the strengthened influence of the Zionist movement led to the creation of values and symbols with which the Jewish educational system, at the same period, had to identify.

As mentioned earlier, science and objectivity, in the way current textbooks are written, brought a new evaluation of settlements in Israel according to criteria such as size, economic base, and regional significance (Rap, E. et al 1994) This tendency is relevant only for textbooks written for the governmental educational system. It must not be forgotten that the Haredi educational system continues to analyze space a great deal differently. In Haredi (ultra orthodox) education, as in secular education, “places” are not only points of settlement. They carry an educational and symbolic message. “Places” emphasize and provide examples of a desired lifestyle, and social ideals are realized in them. In the textbooks for Haredi education, the authors adopt modern geographical terms and principles and implement them in their particular worldview. Thus, for example, the spatial settlement map in Ordentlic’s book is explained thus:

“Among the many developing settlements in the southern coastal plain, those which developed a life of Torah [Mosaic Law, the ultra orthodox way of life] and spirituality particularly stand out[. . . ]Their influence is different from the framework of their location on the map. According to a fable attributed to the Hafets Hayim . . . we can describe to ourselves, says the fable, that in Heaven a world map exists as well — an atlas, similar to the one in our hands in Israel. However, while in the map in our hands, cities large in area or in population take up a large area and small cities take up a small area or are not marked at all, on the Heavenly map, only those places with a life of Torah and spirituality take up a large amount of space — even if they are only small villages! And places which are lacking Torah — even if they are large in area, or in population — are not marked at all!” (1984, p. 106-7).

Just as the cowshed and fields of crops in the cooperative settlements provided cultural symbols in the zionist socialist educational system, so do places of study of Torah provide a similar role in the Haredi educational system. There exists, then, a similarity in the system of composition and educational direction of the textbooks, which is expressed in the spatial choosing of the map of the country. The description of places in Israel in an open manner (the facts) or hidden manner (the evaluations) is a direct result of the worldviews of the textbook authors, who attempt to transmit them to the next generation.

In summery, the description and evaluation of rural settlements in Israel is characterized by three periods, in which various settlements were considered to be exemplary: until the 1930s the individual settlements, those which carried the flag of Zionist renewal, conquering the wilderness, building up of the land, and facing of challenges. From the 1930s until the late 1960s, the cooperative and the collective settlements was described as exemplary for the realization of the Zionist Socialist dream, the pride of Jewish pioneering settlement. In the present, the significance of rural settlement has decreased generally, and has ceased to be considered exemplary. The emphasis in the teaching of geography of Israel has been transferred to urban settlements and to systems of regional settlement, as a result of the increased level of scientific objectivity and the urbanization of the country. The Haredi education is exceptional, as it uses other measurement tools to evaluate places in Israel.


Some recent geographical researches try to reconnect geographical terms, as territory or scale, with national identities (Herb and Kaplan 1999). Other believe that national identities are more complicated issues and have to be studied in cultural and historical perspectives too. (Hooson 1994) The cultural view point can lead up to the field of education and find there traces of connections between nationality and geography — connections which changed during the years as a result of political ideology and scientifically developments (Haubrich 1998 p. 17)

The ideology which shaped the education system, buried its values in textbooks and curricula. Therefore in order to understand the various changes in ideology buried in textbooks, one must turn to language, which transmits the ideological meanings within a certain period. Language serves ideology in transmitting a certain “reality,” which it aims to perpetuate, for the sake of survival. Textbooks provide “social manifestoes,” which include the “formal language” in which ideology is used for purposes of communication and socialization.

Geography textbooks, as other social archetypes, may be used as unexploited “raw material” for the purpose of understanding the culture which creates them. As raw material, the culture which “writes” the textbooks lies hidden within them, and these texts create images crucial for the culture’s survival. The “reader” of texts who is contemporaneous in time period and culture to the texts cannot always succeed in deciphering the variety of meanings located within them.

From the examples discussed in this article, one can see that geography textbooks present different representations of the same places. For example: Jerusalem, as a location, has received a wide variety of representations, including those in which Jerusalem is the center of the world (Haredi education), while for others, Jerusalem represents a place which is the capital of a modern state (secular education). Tel Aviv, as a place, has received consistent evaluations, on the other hand. This city symbolizes the socio-economic center of the Zionist settlement in the land of Israel. One can see that the representation of places in geography textbooks (which influence the construction of a student’s spatial conception) is a direct result of the accepted ideology. Therefore, one may assume that the student’s relationship to space in the future, as he or she matures, will be influenced by the representations to which the student is exposed in childhood and youth (Bar-Gal, 1993 a, 1994) In this way, the educational system, which is an extension of the prevailing political power, may insure continuity and survival of its ideological perception of space and places within a country.


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