Israel's Religious Schools Mix Torah and Computers Series: WORLD MEDIA PROJECT. Part 2 of an Occasional Series. Third of 5 Articles Appearing Today

Article excerpt

WHEN you enter the yeshiva Tomhey Temimim (Support of the Innocents), a Habad yeshiva in Lud, Israel, you see scores of boys wearing kippas (skullcaps), with tassels hanging at the sides of their trousers. Among them one recognizes youngsters after their Bar Mitzva, wearing black hats and coats.

In the yeshiva, some 240 students in the first to seventh grades and about 100 preschool-aged children study under the direction of Rabbi Manasseh (Menashe) Hadad. The youngest ones begin their reading, writing, and religious studies at age 3.

The yeshiva, part of Israel's state religious school system, is funded by the Ministry of Education as well as by Habad, a Jewish movement derived from Hasidism. The pupils study continuously from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The teacher, Haim, is a burly man who wears a broad skullcap, has a white beard, and looks rather intimidating. He teaches Talmud.

Facing him sit 27 students, absent-mindedly curling their sidelocks and yawning surreptitiously, while carrying on a matter-of-fact discussion concerning a customer who causes distress to a shopkeeper. They comment on the Scriptures and consider his case in the light of religious law

Avremaleh Weisel, 11, wears a black skullcap covering his whole head. He listens attentively. When the teacher addresses him directly, he gives give a sharp and succinct answer. Sidelocks hang on both sides of his cheeks, his eyes radiate intelligence. Although he studies in the eighth grade, his freckles give a hint of his young age.

Avremaleh has three sisters and a brother. His father works at a butcher shop, and his mother is a homemaker. …