What should we do with the conviction of Ehud Olmert?

May 15, 2014 by

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אולמרטShay Charka

Is our first instinct to stress the positives?

It does indeed take a strong and independent justice system to convict Presidents, Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers and the like. If we do take this approach, emphasizing the conviction and less the crime itself, it might be worthwhile examining our aims. Are we trying to defend Israel against its detractors? Are we trying to simply cheer our students up? Or even to cheer up ourselves?

And if we were to play down the conviction and focus on the corruption. How Olmert’s wrong-doings may well be the tip of the iceberg, and so on – what are our aims here? Do we wish to push our learners to action? To protest? To despair?

There will be many who will argue that the conviction of a politician in Israel is not a subject for Israel or Jewish education. In some senses they would be right, in so far as the headlines of the current discourse explore straightforward issues of justice systems, the rule of law, and so on. Beyond pointing out that Israel has a justice system, the “lesson” is limited. But at the same time, it’s in the news, guys… Do we really think no one’s going to ask, or notice?

We might take as our entry point the gags and the cartoons popping up all over. “The formation of the new political party, The Hard Labor Party with real conviction” – “The potential for an entire shadow government cabinet in prison”. From what pain, anger, or detachment do these gags emerge?

Or what if we chose to examine the language being used? Might we then reach a deeper opportunity for questions of Identity?

Look around the articles and the Facebook posts. Who talks of being “ashamed”? It’s worth unpacking what kind of connection someone has to a place or a person if they are ashamed of them. If I am ashamed of someone or something, it suggests they hold a significant place in the way I understand myself. If I were disconnected, or disinterested, I might use the word “sad” or “stupid” or even “outrageous”, but would never feel “shame”.

Do our learners feel ashamed of Israel? That might be a good sign. They are connected.

But by the same token, we should not forget that the twin of shame is pride. They emerge from the same place of identification.

When do our students feel pride in Israel? It’s a human need for us to experience both – sometimes even at the same time.

Exploration of this duality of shame and pride in Israel may allow us to extract some educational juice out of this complicated and challenging headline.

What do you think?

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