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Research Project:
What Made Them Different?

Studying ancient times and peoples helps us to gain a better understanding of our world today. In this lesson we’ll focus on what made the people of ancient Israel different from their neighbors.

Do you know what the term monotheism and polytheism means? The people of ancient Israel were unlike their neighbors in that they practiced monotheism. Most of their neighbors practiced polytheism. Compare the Israelites’ views of God with those of their ancient neighbors. These neighbors could include different areas of the Middle East and Mesopotamia; or, you could compare them to the ancient Greek and/or Roman cultures.

Ancient Israelites lived by religious laws. Ten of these laws were handed to Moses by God himself and are called the Ten Commandments. If was very important to the ancient Israelites to follow their laws. These laws were both religious and social and changed very little over hundreds of years. Compare these laws with the laws followed by some of their ancient neighbors. Were other ancient cultures more, or less, stable than the ancient Israelites? Do you think that the ancient Israelites’ laws helped them? How?

Ancient Israelites even had laws that governed what they could and could not eat. The Hebrew word kosher means “fit or proper.” Kosher food means that the food is “fit or proper” according to Jewish dietary laws. This could mean that the food is made with kosher ingredients, prepared in a kosher way, or the food itself is one that is allowed and kosher. Jews are prohibited by their dietary laws from eating pork or pork products. They are not even to eat anything fried in pork fats (lard) or that has pork fat as one if its ingredients. This is not the only dietary law that the Jews are supposed to live by. Write at least one paragraph explaining some of the Jewish dietary laws.

Examples of Jewish festivals are Hanukkah, Passover, Purim, Sukkot. Write a report describing some ancient Jewish fesitivals. How do the festivals of the ancient Israelites differ from those of other ancient peoples? Many Jewish festivals are still celebrated in today’s modern world. Can you find any other ancient festivals from other ancient cultures that are still celebrated today?

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