Israeli Elections are coming – are you?

January 21, 2019 by

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The most direct and powerful opportunity for individuals to influence Israeli policy is upon us. On April 9th, every Israeli citizen has the chance to have their say as to how Israel should best answer the Four Hatikvah Questions.

What would be the best way to ensure Israel’s security? How should Judaism, the Jewish People, and Jewish values affect policy in Israel? How can Israel’s current EIU Democracy Index ranking rise higher than 30th in the world? Are we configuring our land and its resources in the most equitable and sustainable way?

In later Headlines for Identity, we’ll look into how the political parties do or don’t address these questions, but for now it might be worth asking a more fundamental question:

Why aren’t you voting?

Why don’t those American Jews who express so much care and concern for Israel and her policies, just come over here and vote? For Jews around the world it’s real easy to get the vote in Israel: You just make Aliyah. Technically speaking you wouldn’t even need to live here. Pop over to become an Israeli citizen, and then fly in to vote. It’s not nothing, but it’s nowhere near impossible.

So what is behind this desire to critique and influence Israel on the one hand, and this unwillingness to put one’s money where one’s mouth is on the other?

Do Diaspora Jews care less than they say they do? Do they view Aliyah in such hallowed terms that they could not bring themselves to “exploit” it in this way?

Or are they simply afraid that if given the right to vote in Israel’s elections they’ll find themselves confounded over whom to vote for, like the rest of us poor saps living here?

Culture Connection III – Happy New Year!


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Facebook was terribly busy over New Year’s Eve!

We have translated and annotated one of the most entertaining threads we’ve seen for some time…

(H/T to Ittay Flescher!)



Download the pdf from here

To Be – under threat of annihilation, or defeat?

December 26, 2018 by

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As they say, when the United States sneezes, the whole world catches the flu. While the decision of President Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria has led to political headlines and speculation in DC, it has put many in our area in fear for their lives.

The only buffer between an Iranian-Russian takeover of Syria, Israel’s Northern enemy, has disappeared overnight. Kurds fear massacre, and Israel fears the nightmare scenario of Iran on its border: Both in Syria and in Lebanon through Iran’s proxy army Hezbollah with their tunnels.

How should we respond to a sworn enemy that aims for our annihilation?

Ironically enough, President Trump’s move comes in a period when more and more military and ex-military personnel are calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. They, echoing Helit Bar El’s presentation to us, argue that we must differentiate between Iran’s threat of annihilation – TO BE – and the Palestinians’ threat to areas of OUR LAND and our own sense of liberal democracy (FREEDOM).

These Generals argue that if an enemy threatens our values or our interests, but does not threaten our existence, then this is an enemy with whom we can and should compromise.

In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump has strengthened Israel’s hand vis a vis the Palestinians, and in announcing the withdrawal from Syria has weakened Israel’s hand against Iran.

Some might say that Americans do not understand what it means to be under threat of annihilation. Are American Jews different in this respect?

How should American Jews, often opposed to US military exploits in the Middle East, respond to President Trump’s priorities?


Culture Connection I – In the Land or Out of it?


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Airbnb takes a stand on Our Land/Their Land

November 21, 2018 by

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Airbnb has responded to pressure from Human Rights Watch, and has chosen to “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” This has, as might be expected, delighted activists working against the military occupation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, and has infuriated the Israeli government and its supporters.

The former might see this as an affirmation of what is almost an international consensus: The area East of the 1967 Armistice line known as the Green Line is Occupied Territory. As such, it is subject to the Geneva Convention that prohibits transfer of population into said areas, and rules out building permanent settlements there. Human Rights Watch created a video aimed at Airbnb, pointing out that listings are built on land stolen from Palestinians. Activists against the Occupation would say that Airbnb are to be praised for upholding international law. Hurrah…

On the other hand, Israeli governments of the last fifty years – and most Israelis – do not see this area as occupied. The land was conquered in response to Jordanian aggression, there was no legitimate State the land was conquered from (the strictly legal definition of Occupied territory), and anyway – this is ancient and traditional Jewish land. Many Israelis would even go further to say that Jewland (Judea) is rightfully owned and ruled by the Jewish State. For Airbnb to discriminate against Jewish residents of Jewland is grossly unfair. Boo…

There are others who, without denying either party’s claims, might ask a question: Does Airbnb refuse business to other countries involved in abuses that are also enumerated by Human Rights Watch? And if not, why not?

HRW condemns Zimbabwe’s theft of land, Saudi Arabian abuses of women, China’s occupation of Tibet and discrimination against Muslims – to name but a few. All of these places are trading happily on Airbnb. Tibet is even listed by Airbnb as being a province of China!

Yet Human Rights Watch has, as yet, run no campaign against these listings.

Given this inconsistency, how should we interpret the actions of Human Rights Watch (whose own founder denounced it), and of Airbnb?

[You might wish to print out this pdf version of the post, and stick it up on the wall of your House…]


This Headline for Identity is part of the 4HQ Encounters program for Moishe House, made possible by the generous funding of Jim Joseph Foundation.


Lara Alqasem and Israel’s boycott of boycotters

October 25, 2018 by

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Lara Alqasem


So Lara Alqasem has finally begun her studies at Hebrew University. Her situation received huge coverage both in the States and in Israel, and raises two key issues for us to ponder.

Some background: Back in the States Lara Alqasem was an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, that boycotts and condemns Israel. In Israel the issue of boycotts has become a fiery bone of contention, and the source of new legislation to prevent “giving succor to our enemies”. Those Israelis who call for boycotting the country lay themselves open to being sued for damages, and to lose certain State benefits. On the basis of this law, Alqasem was refused entry to Israel. After a two week legal appeal, Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled she was free to enter the country: She was not judged to be currently calling for boycott.

Our first question to ponder is the “cock-up vs conspiracy” question. The fact that this young woman was coming to study on a year-long student visa at Hebrew University, has already infuriated those committed to boycotting Israel’s academia. As a boycotter of Israel, she’s a complete failure… So was her arrest a sign that the Israeli government has malign plans to extend the reach of the Boycott Law, and that the security establishment sees even a (former) student activist as a threat? Or was her arrest just a stupid mistake compounded by cheap local politics?

Our second question has often been obscured by the first: In a post 9/11 world, (when) is it justified for a government to prevent entry of foreign nationals to its territory – especially those it suspects might break its laws?

In our 4HQ language, we might ask two overlapping questions.

  • Is a country’s Freedom to be judged according to the way it denies freedoms to others?
  • Can a country’s Safety be threatened by campaigns other than military ones?


If the answer to both these questions is yes, how then should a country negotiate its border crossings?

Moishe House programming suggestion:

You might wish to work with this Headline for Identity together with Musica Cubana. You might ask participants to imagine how the protagonist in Musica Cubana would/should react to visitors to his club who call it racist?


This Headline for Identity is part of the 4HQ Encounters program for Moishe House, made possible by the generous funding of Jim Joseph Foundation.

The Next Edge – Israel Education Conference – October 2018


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This event was a meeting place for engaged academics, policy-makers, and reflective practitioners. discussions included, current challenges in Israel education, what the desired outcomes of robust Israel education, and new strategies for taking us forward. Check back soon for papers published at this conference.

Full program can be found here

In the Land and Out of It?


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The October Culture Connection

4HQ Moishe House Final Webinar


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Hi there!

This final webinar is a combination of a video “lesson”, and your assignments.


Please watch the video! It lasts just under 40 minutes. You can watch it when you want, in one go or in installments. Then come the three tasks:

Task 1:

In our shared Google Drive “4HQ Israel Cohort 1”, you’ll find the folder “Final Webinar and Assignments”. Please go to the “Love, Frustrates, Confuses” folder. There you will find the 4HQ chart in whichever format you prefer.

Your job is to write in your love/frustrates/confuses choice into the chart itself, placing your choices where you think they should be located. For example, if what you love about Israel is the Galilee area, you would write “I love the Galilee area” in the section of IN OUR LAND…

Once you have done this, please upload your finished chart back to the “Love, Frustrates, Confuses” folder. Please do this before July 28th. Our opening day will work with everyone’s charts. If you are unable to upload your chart, please print it out and bring it with you.

Task 2:

Do you ever think about your security? (To Be) Do you find yourself obsessing about American values and ways of behaving? (People) Is your place very important to you? (Land)

Your job is to rank the way you see life. From 0 to 10, please rank the relative importance of the four questions to the way you see America, and the way you see Israel.

Simply go into this chart, put in your name, and get ranking!

Please complete this ranking by July 28th. This chart will form a central part of several sessions through the trip.

Task 3:

Any session you would like to see happen on the trip? We have a few slots that we’ve deliberately left open for your choices. Take a look at the itinerary as it stands. Then take a look at the list of optional sessions we could try to add – put your name down for any sessions you’d like to attend, and feel free to add your  ideas for sessions as well!

Please complete this by 21st July, so we’ll have time to prepare.

We make no promises, but we’ll attempt to accommodate your wishes!


4HQ Israel Encounters Assignment


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Please watch this video and complete the 4 tasks detailed below…

  1. Please draw out the connected/disconnected – hi-res/lo-res matrix, and draw your own journey on the matrix. Please have this drawing ready to share on the webinar (either on your computer, or physically ready to hold up to the camera!) See 6:55
  2. Please note for yourself where you would map your MH participants. See 7:27
  3. Please note for yourself where you would map the current Israel programming. We’ll refer to these maps when we are together in Israel. See 8:10
  4. Please write your answers to these two questions, and mail them to robbie[at]makomisrael[dot]net:
  • Do you see part of your role at MH to move your participants in a direction on the Matrix vis a vis Israel?
  • If your answer is yes, do you see your role to move your participants along both axes, or only one? That is, the hi-res/lo-res axis addresses knowledge, while the connected/disconnected axis addresses feelings of connection… Do you hope/expect to move your participants along only the knowledge axis, or also the connection axis?


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