The political awakening of students throughout the land following the Parkland shooting, has surprised and inspired many. Whether or not the subject is on their curriculum, every Jewish educator knows that Gun Control is a topic that their students are interested in addressing. As such, we have an opportunity. Our students are motivated, excited, engaged!
What contribution might educators make at this time?
I would suggest that one contribution – among many others – might be to equip our students to fight their good fight without them losing sight of the shared humanity and shared citizenship of their opponents. How can they maintain their righteous passion and drive, and at the same time hold on to a sense – despite it all – of a United States of America? How can our classrooms provide space for disagreement and struggle, yet make sure that opposition does not turn into hatred?
We would suggest that the Gun Control debate revolves around four fundamental questions that our students would benefit from exploring:
How do we stay safe?
What makes us American?
How can we be free?
How do we relate to our territory?
Our students who are demonstrating and campaigning for gun control probably do not need to even check their answers to these questions. Even without asking we might assume that it is clear to them that safety will come from gun control laws applied more consistently and broadly than ever before. They probably know that being American is about liberty and tolerance, and not about being the shame of the world due to its gun violence. They presumably wish to be free to go to school without armed guards (or teachers), and they know that only the US has such a crazy attitude to guns, and that those who do not live on the coasts think totally differently about this and that they are wrong.
So far so unsurprising. Where these four questions come in useful is in enabling the liberal learner to understand the “other side”. The “other side” of this gun debate would argue that one is safe from bad guys and from bad governments when one owns a gun of one’s own – the more powerful the better. They might argue that the Constitution is the sacred heart of what makes us American, all amendments included. Freedom for them would be meaningless if the State took away their right to armed self-defence, and the right to defend one’s territory – especially one’s home.
In assessing these two sets of answers (and of course there are many other possible combinations of answers), the student may emerge with two conclusions. First, “I totally disagree with them. They are totally wrong, and I shall do all I can to achieve what I believe,” but also: “I understand that we both share four fundamental concerns. This is what binds us. Our different attitudes to these shared concerns are what make us opponents in our shared endeavor to get better answers to these fundamental questions.” The latter conclusion can and should live together with the first.
Funnily enough, if you end up managing to draw your students into this conversation on gun control through these four questions, you might find your class is delightfully prepped to talk about Israel, too!
For the penultimate line of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, contains four words that map very neatly on to these four questions your students will have explored: To Be (safety) a People (national identity) Free In Our Land (territory) – Lihiyot Am Chofshi B’Artzenu – להיות עם חפשי בארצנו. Pretty much every aspect of Israel you might explore with your students are about the same four fundamental concerns – for safety, collective identity, freedom, and land – expressed through these same four questions.
For more about these Four Questions in Israel Education, take a look at Makom’s work with 4HQ.
Three thoughts about the way in which the compromise agreement over mixed-prayer at the Kotel was “frozen” by Prime Minister Netanyahu, thus infuriating the Jewish world:
For all its pain, the Kotel furore is good for Israel Education. It finally puts paid to the idea that one can teach Israel without touching on the politics that animate this place. No longer can Israel engagers maintain that we can engage with Israel as an embodiment of our religious convictions, without addressing the politics that drive this particular embodiment. Educators’ celebration of “shared values” must now incorporate issues where our values are not necessarily shared.
All this is a good thing. Since Zionism was about the Jews assuming power, it was always odd that we bypassed the mechanisms and the energies that related to the use of that power.
We can now all embrace the invigorating challenge of educating about the politics of Israel without turning them into an all-encompassing obsession…
Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit offers a useful way of looking at the compromises that were made in the process of coming up with the Kotel agreement, and what compromises PM Netanyahu made in choosing to freeze its implementation. In his book, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, Margalit assesses when a compromise must be rejected, and when it should be accepted albeit while holding one’s nose. It is worth taking a look at the past few weeks in the light of Shady, Shoddy, and Shabby deals.
Finally, Margalit also points to what might be at the heart of the impassioned response to Netanyahu’s move: What constitutes decent behavior. While Israeli politicians such as Naftali Bennet point out that the current situation is not catastrophic for the progressive cause, since the platform at Robinson’s Arch will remain and even grow in size, Diaspora leadership will point not only to the result but to the process.
After having negotiated in good faith over the future of the Kotel, and after having agreed to a compromise – for this compromise to be summarily dumped is not only a poor result, it is poor behavior. In another of Margalit’s greats, he explores what he means by a Decent Society. A decent society is one in which its institutions do not humiliate its citizens. By extension we might say that a decent relationship between Israel and the Diaspora would be one that does not humiliate one side of the supposed-partnership.
[You might also be interested in the materials we created here about the Kotel a couple of years ago. The background is still highly relevant.]
Coming on for 100 years ago, The Balfour Declaration stated that the area of Palestine should be the “national homeland” of the Jews.
The Zionist movement of a century ago did not need the British to tell them that our national homeland was situated in the area known as Palestine. The Balfour Declaration is celebrated to this day because a world power had publicly acknowledged this connection. Jews knowing that the Land of Israel was ours, allowed us to dream. But when a superpower let everyone know the Land of Israel was ours, it allowed us to plan.
Recently this tension between what the Jewish People knows as the Land of Israel, and what the world recognises as the State of Israel, has come to the fore in extraordinary fashion.
President Trump became the first American president to visit the Kotel, the Western Wall. But in so doing President Trump’s advance staff pointed out an inconvenient truth: The Kotel is on the “other” side of the Green Line. As such, it is not within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.
While every Jew would remind us that Jerusalem, and the area of the ancient Temple in particular, is at the beating heart of the Biblical Land of Israel, the President of the United States reminded us that it is outside the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel.
Bearing in mind that in the Balfour Declaration we celebrate the international recognition for what we Jews have always known, how should we engage with this current rejection of Israeli sovereignty over Zion itself?
כאן אפשר למצוא פרטים על מערך התמונות:
And here is the same activity explained in English:
Tune in to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Imagine Israel Podcast, as part of Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative.
With every episode, meet innovative Israeli influencers addressing social and economic challenges in Israel. Robbie Gringras, Creative Director of Makom, hosts Federation’s Imagine Israel Podcast, facilitating thought-provoking dialogues with innovative Israelis to hear their story and learn how their life, work and passions intersect in a unique way to make a noticeable impact on Israeli society. focused on the intersection of their lives, work, passions and Israeli society.
Imagine Israel Podcast series connects Washington listeners directly to Israeli innovators, providing an opportunity to learn how Israeli activists are addressing social issues including disability inclusion, shared Jewish-Arab society, pluralism, LGBTQ community in Israel and more. The podcast will feature a breadth of thought leaders from DC and Israel, working in a wide variety of fields including filmmakers, NGO directors and CEOs, humanitarian aid workers and others.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, we speak with medics working at Jerusalem’s emergency clinics, living and working a precious and delicate co-existence.
Kaynan Rabino is the brain behind Good Deeds Day, an annual day of service that has flourished into an international phenomenon, currently reaching 75 countries—including the Greater Washington’s own Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day. Rabino explains why the simple objective to change the world and positively impact the lives of others has garnered such a following, one good deed at a time.
Avner Stepak, former CEO of the second largest investment house in Israel, is revolutionizing Israel’s corporate world to include the previously overlooked disabled population in Israel’s workforce.
From the vantage point of the top floor at one of the largest investment firms in Israel, Avner Stepak (former CEO of Meitav Dash) saw his company was lacking a crucial component for success: inclusivity. Stepak recognized the value in the underemployed disabled population in Israel and he began to oversee the recruitment and hiring process for his investment house, reframing the company culture to welcome employees with disabilities.
After transforming his own investment house, Stepak set his sights on a new venture and in 2016—through a program of the Joint Distribution Committee, Israel’s Ministry of the Economy and the Ruderman Family Foundation—Stepak established Incorporate Israel. Incorporate Israel helps Israelis with disabilities join the corporate world by working closely with top staff at some of Israel’s biggest companies to fight against prevalent stigmas and raising awareness.
Visionary activist Chaya Gilboa, an expert on the issue of Israeli religious reform, shares her desire for social change in Israel. In a country where politics are religious and religion is political, Chaya strives to transform Israel’s restrictive religious judicial system by challenging institutionalized law to create a pluralistic, egalitarian alternative.
The compelling conversation addresses the conflicts and complexities that come with the current Rabbinical (Jewish governance) jurisdiction over issues of marriage, divorce and kashrut (Jewish dietary law); and Chaya’s approach to changing the system from outside of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament).
Host Robbie Gringras interviews co-writer and director of the LGBTQ family drama “Ima v’ Abbas” (Mother and Fathers) about the intersection of his personal family dynamic in Israel (raising a child as a gay couple with a straight, single surrogate), his work, passions and Israeli society
This is an activity from the 4HQ curriculum, adapted for 2017, the 50th anniversary of the 6 Day War.
What is behind the connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel? And how does the Bible dictate or deviate from Israel’s current borders?
A crucial element in any learner’s ability to think about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For learners aged 15 upwards.
We have found that Liora Goldberg’s blog of her visit to Ramallah and Hebron is a useful text to work with young adult groups who may not identify themselves as “progressive”. In particular it may be useful to begin more in-depth discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among young adults who grew up within a community that rarely voices a critique of Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria/The West Bank.
Liora’s perspective on her experiences comes from her UK Bnei Akiva background, and from growing up in a committed Zionist and not necessarily progressive family. Her insights are careful, honest, and personal. As such, we would recommend seeing her narrative voice as one of the most interesting aspects of the blog – exploring not only the experiences she reports, but the way in which she reports them as well.
While you are welcome to share the link to the annotated version of her blog, with “hover-over” embedded questions, you may wish to arrange an in-person meeting.
A gathering of young adults might be best off first sharing the reading of the entire blog, one paragraph per person: This is a slightly shortened version for you to download and print out.
Then we would recommend splitting into smaller groups or pairs, to work through the four sheets of A3 for at least 45 minutes.
Click here to download the pdf for printing out prior to the meeting.
Finally, bring the small groups together so that they may share their insights and comments.
“This activity is recommended for learners who have visited Israel before.
Ask each participant to
Write down 10 words, ideas, or places that you associate with Jerusalem
Write down 10 words, ideas, or places that you associate with Tel Aviv
The Seventh Global Jewish Forum of the Jewish Agency addressed the nature of Millenials and Israel Education: