English Reading Practice


Israel is a country in the Middle East. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea.


The country we think of today as Israel has existed since 1948, but the land of Israel has a long history dating back thousands of years. Throughout this history there were many great teachers who made Israel, Judaism, and the world what they are today. One of these great teachers was Rabbi Hillel.

Rabbi Hillel

Rabbi Hillel is one of the most important teachers in Jewish history. In Hebrew "rabbi" means "a teacher."

Rabbi Hillel was born in the first century BCE (Before Common Era) in Babylon, which today is part of Iraq.

He was born to a wealthy family in Babylon, but came to the land of Israel without the financial support of his family and supported himself as a woodcutter. In the end, he became one of the most important Jewish scholars of all time. A "scholar" is a very well-educated person.

Although he lived in one of the most difficult times for Jewish people (the period of Roman occupation in Israel), Rabbi Hillel was always positive and kind.

One of Rabbi Hillel's most famous teachings was the Golden Rule. One day, Hillel was asked to recite (say) the words of the Torah (the wisdom and law contained in Jewish writings and tradition) while standing on one foot. He did this by saying, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn."

He summarized (made shorter) the Torah in one sentence – treat other people how you want to be treated. This is a lesson that is still taught today.


Rabbi Hillel and his disciples (people who follow a spiritual or religious teacher) set-up schools all over Israel. They taught the important lessons of Judaism for over three centuries. A "century" is one hundred years.

These schools and teachings are known as the "School of Hillel." Judaism today is based on these teachings.

Rabbi Hillel also had concern for humanity (other people). He said, "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"

Another important lesson that Rabbi Hillel taught was the importance of understanding the meaning of the law and not just the words that are written as the law.

For example, Hillel said, "Do not judge your fellow until you stand in his place." This means that you should try to understand why a person does what they do before telling them they are wrong.

Perhaps the most important lesson Rabbi Hillel taught was compassion. "Compassion" means love and kindness towards other people. Hillel said, "in a place where there are no humans, one must strive to be human."

The Roman occupation was a difficult time for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Hillel believed and taught his students the importance of seeing each person as wonderful and important.

This lesson, and all of Hillel's lessons, was not only important when Rabbi Hillel was alive, but is also very important nowadays. This is why Rabbi Hillel and his teachings continue to live on and be taught today.

And now, practice:

Israel - Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

1. What does "rabbi" mean?

a) a teacher in the Jewish religion

b) a smart person

c) a student

d) a wise person

2. What does "century" mean?

a) ten years

b) one hundred years

c) one thousand years

d) one million years

3. What does "compassion" mean?

a) friendliness

b) peace

a) kindness

b) faith

Grammar Questions

1. Rabbi Hillel is one of _________ most important teachers in Jewish history.

a) a

b) the

c) an

d) that

2. He moved to Israel and _________ one of the most important Jewish scholars of all time.

a) become

b) became

c) had become

d) will become

3. Judaism today is based _________ these teachings.

a) in

b) at

c) on

d) of

Comprehension Questions

1. What is the Golden Rule?


2. What was the "School of Hillel?"


3. What were some of Rabbi Hillel's teachings?


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