With Israel constantly in the news – and debates about the Jewish state dominating many headlines and campus discussions – researchers at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University decided to measure how much today’s Jewishly involved college students – who often find themselves on the front lines defending the Jewish state on American campuses – know about Israel.

In a series of interviews and questionnaires administered over two years from 2013 to 2015, hundreds of Jewish students from 20 major American Universities who’d applied to visit Israel on a Birthright trip were asked to answer a range of questions about Israel’s history, politics, culture and society – with shocking results.

These students already had strong Jewish backgrounds. In addition to planning to tour Israel with Birthright, 44% already had visited Israel previously. The vast majority – 83% – had some formal Jewish education growing up, either in the form of part-time Religions School or full-time day school. A quarter had taken at least one college class about Israel, and over a quarter of the students listened to news stories about Israel at least once a month.

Yet most flunked the test. The average score was 46%: an “F” in most grading scales. The median score was even worse: 44%. Only 8% of respondents managed to score above a 75: a “C+” or higher.

While some greeted the results with dismay, the researchers who devised and administered these tests noted that it’s easy to improve scores: “There seems a clear and obvious link between education, time spent in Israel, and reading the news with increased scores on the literacy questions. ….those who have greater exposure to Israel answer more questions correctly.”

Over a quarter of the Birthright applicants characterize hostility towards Israel on campus as either a “very big” or a “fairly big” problem; 15% report that hostility towards the Jewish state has spilled over on their campuses into hostility towards Jews in general. In this atmosphere, it’s vitally important to be able to talk about the Jewish state confidently. Scoring high on Israel literacy helped students stand up to anti-Jewish bigotry, the researchers found: “students who scored higher on the questions also felt more confident in their ability to explain the current situation in Israel”.

Here are 15 sample questions from the Israel literacy test. (Answers are at the end.) See how you score – then challenge yourself to learn even more about Israel – and encourage others to do the same!

1. The word “Zion” was FIRST used when?

  1. By Theodore Herzl at the First Zionist Congress
  2. In medieval poetry about Israel
  3. In the Hebrew Bible as a reference to Jerusalem
  4. as an alternative name for Israel when the State was founded

2. Who gets to vote in Israel?

  1. All citizens
  2. Jewish citizens
  3. Jewish and Arab citizens but not Druze citizens
  4. Citizens who have served in the Israeli army

3. What was one of the immediate causes of the Second Lebanon War?

  1. The capture of a Lebanese freighter trying to smuggle weapons in the Gaza Strip
  2. Iraq’s invasion of Lebanon
  3. The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri
  4. Hezbollah’s cross-border attack and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers

4. Zionism is a movement that DOES NOT include the promotion of:

  1. A Jewish nation state
  2. A distinctive Jewish culture
  3. A return to an ancient homeland
  4. A revival of the Yiddish language

5. The State of Israel was declared on:

  1. November 11, 1918
  2. December 7, 1941
  3. May 14, 1948
  4. June 20, 1950

6. Which of the following statements about the Israeli economy is TRUE?

  1. Israel has a socialist society in which wealth is relatively evenly distributed among all citizens
  2. The kibbutz movement is the main driver of the Israeli economy
  3. Israel has a national health care system
  4. Israel is a very poor country due to its lack of natural resources

7. The population of Israel is approximately:

  1. 100-110 million
  2. 50-60 million
  3. 20-25 million
  4. 5-10 million

8. The Prime Minister of Israel is:

  1. Appointed by the Chief Rabbi
  2. Leader of a coalition representing the majority of seats in the Knesset
  3. Elected by direct popular vote
  4. Elected by a three-fifths majority of members of the Knesset

9. Hamas and Hezbollah are:

  1. Nonviolent Islamic organizations in the Middle East
  2. Groups that are classified as terrorist organizations by the United States
  3. Recognized representatives of the Palestinians in the United Nations
  4. Political leaders of the West Bank

10. The current Prime Minister of Israel is:

  1. Benjamin Netanyahu
  2. Mahmoud Abbas
  3. Angela Merkel
  4. David Ben-Gurion

11. The Holocaust is significant to the State of Israel because:

  1. Holocaust survivors founded the Zionist movement
  2. Many Holocaust survivors immigrated to Israel after World War II
  3. The United States encouraged Jews to settle in Israel to escape the Holocaust
  4. Israel’s first three Prime Ministers were Holocaust survivors

12. What is the Green Line?

  1. The armistice line following the Israeli War of Independence
  2. The border between Israel and Lebanon created by the British mandate
  3. The line that divides the forested area of Israel from the desert
  4. The new train line between Tel Aviv and Haifa

13. The largest wave of immigration to Israel in the last two decades of the 20th Century came from:

  1. The United States
  2. Poland
  3. Morocco
  4. The Former Soviet Union

14. Which statement is NOT true?

  1. Israel has a parliamentary system of government
  2. Like the United States, Israel has a written constitution
  3. People vote for a political party and seats in Israel’s Parliament are allocated proportionally
  4. Unlike the United States, Israel has many political parties represented in government

15. Who are Amos Oz, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, and Etgar Keret?

  1. Members of the Israeli parliament
  2. Israeli novelists
  3. Israeli soccer stars
  4. Founders of the Kibbutz movement

(Answers: 1 – C. 2 – A. 3 – D. 4 – D. 5 – C. 6 – C. 7 – D. 8 – B. 9 – B. 10 – A. 11 – B. 12 – A. 13 – D. 14 – B. 15 – B.)