Current Affairs

Pushing the Button

Some issues in Israel are complicated. 

Let’s face it, most issues in Israel are complicated. 

Sometimes we do not do them or us justice when we skim through only a headline.

In this new section, Pushing the Button, we hope to take a headline further, inviting different voices and different media to shed light into unexpected areas.

Makom Briefings

There are times when a short article or gathering of responses are not enough. Israel’s current affairs are such that occasionally an explosion of interest emerges from a small and ephemeral issue. There are other times when deep, long-lasting, and ethically complex issues arise, and a thicker in-depth response is required. 

For these moments Makom creates a Briefing. A Briefing engages with larger questions, draws on texts and documents from around the subject, offering Jewish thinking and educational directions for work.

Liberalism and Zionism - GJFIII

The Global Jewish Forum

Three times a year the Jewish Agency gathers Jewish leaders from around the world  for deep consideration of the pressing issues of the Jewish People. Makom designs and facilitates a day dedicated to moving beyond the communal headlines to examine the deep issues that drive them. At the GJF International Jewish leaders deliberately does not take decisions, but together decides to deliberate… Young committed adults sit around the table with institutional leaders, sharing perspectives and gaining understanding.

The 3nd Global Jewish Forum – Liberalism and Zionism

In 2010 Peter Beinart wrote an article about what he saw as Israel’s failing liberal credentials. Its most stinging line, refuted by some researchers yet endlessly quoted, touched a raw nerve: “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.”

Since then the powerful and disruptive effect of and response to his consequent book has been impossible to ignore. Similar phenomena have arisen in Europe (JCall and Yahad), Australia (NIF and Limmud), and elsewhere.

At the third Global Jewish Forum on June 25th 2012 we chose to address what we see as three key issues revealed in these storms:

  1. For many Jews around the world Liberalism and Zionism are no longer automatically assumed to be compatible.
  2. Zionism is now judged and defined by Israel’s actions, not only by Zionist theory.
  3. The most painful conflicts in the Jewish world arise when Liberalism and Zionism seem to be at odds.

Through fascinating speakers, interactive presentations, and round-table discussions we explored ways in which reasonable discourse might replace painful conflict.

Here is the annotated video of Gadi Taub’s presentation on Liberalism and Zionism:

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Here is the annotated video of Suzanne Last-Stone’s presentation on Liberalism and Judaism:

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Here is the full presentation of Michael Sandel on the Law of Return and the Right of Return:

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You can also download the source booklet here – for educational purposes only.

Global Jewish Forum IV - Israelis living outside Israel

Global Jewish Forum

Three times a year the Jewish Agency gathers Jewish leaders from around the world for deep consideration of the pressing issues of the Jewish People. Makom designs and facilitates a day dedicated to moving beyond the communal headlines to examine the deep issues that drive them. At the GJF International Jewish leaders deliberately does not take decisions, but together decides to deliberate… Young committed adults sit around the table with institutional leaders, sharing perspectives and gaining understanding.

GJF IV – Home and Away – Israelis living outside Israel

 

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The phenomenon of Israelis living outside Israel has been a loaded one throughout Zionist history. In the days when the Zionist enterprise was built upon a deep and heartfelt rejection of the Diaspora, the idea of a “sabra” choosing to live permanently in this “exile” was seen as the ultimate betrayal.

As understandings of Jewish Peoplehood have developed, as key strands of Zionism have evolved beyond the negation of the Diaspora, and as the world has become more fluid and interconnected, attitudes towards Israelis leaving Israel have likewise shifted. 

With this in mind on October 29th 2012 the fourth Global Jewish Forum chose to address the identity issues that Israeli Jews engage with when bringing up their children outside of Israel.

While most Israeli emigrants show high indicators of Jewish engagement – often higher than locals – research shows that their children tend to distance themselves from Jewish life at a dizzying rate.

  • What might explain this phenomenon? Is it avoidable?
  • Does “Israeliness” lead to a distancing from Jewish life in the Diaspora? Or can it offer new opportunities for connection?
  • Did Israeli secular culture evolve into a new Jewish “denomination” with little in common with other denominations?
  • Or does the newly evolving Jewish-Israeli arts scene provide all Jews outside Israel with a refreshing new perspective on their identity?


Assaf Inbari on “Ben Gurion’s Big Mistake”

 

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Source Book

Click here for free download of the source book


 

Interview with Alma Zohar

 

All opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of Makom!

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The Gaza Conflict - Materials for the Educator

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It is our belief that there are four fundamental questions that lie at the heart of all Israel engagement. We reckon that the more times we ask ourselves these questions, in more circumstances, in more depth, the more we will succeed in appreciating and grappling with Israel in our lives.

The Four Hatikvah Questions – 4HQ – emerge from the four values extolled in the penultimate line of Israel’s National Anthem: To Be | A Free | People | In Our Land – להיות | עם | חופשי | בארצנו  This summary of the values of Liberal Nationalism expressed through the language of the Jewish People, can be best addressed educationally in the form of four key questions:

To Be – What is required in order to survive? When do we know we have done enough to survive? When can we focus on the other aspect of “being” – relaxing and thriving?

People – how is Israel and how am I connected to the Jewish People – its traditions, its wisdom, its community, its mission?

Free – what do I understand by freedom? How are freedoms played out in Israel in relation to responsibility and creativity?

In Our Land – should certain groups be granted exclusive rights to particular pieces of land? What is the Jewish People’s claim to the Land of Israel? What should be its borders bearing in mind another People claims the same land? How should I relate to the Land of Israel if I do not live there?

We recommend that the current conflict in Gaza be framed through these four questions.

To Be?

What does it mean to fight for survival? What is worth risking one’s life for? Here is one way of addressing this question.

People?

One aspect of Peoplehood is accessed through showing solidarity. Yet how does one demonstrate solidarity? Does critique automatically signify a lack of solidarity? This work sheet was created just under two years ago, in response to the last Gaza conflict, and it has not lost its currency in the slightest.

Another aspect of addressing this conflict through the prism of the Jewish People, would be to address Jewish traditions for times such as these. For this purpose we suggest following this text study of Jewish approaches to Times of Trouble.

Free?

Does our desire to be free from rocket attacks permit us to act with impunity? Or does our power and our freedom to defend ourselves come with responsibilities moral and legal? This worksheet and video explores the nature of asymmetric warfare and asks if the IDF is behaving morally?

In Our Land?

The commander of the IDF Givati Brigade wrote in biblical passion to his soldiers of our fight against “Gazan terrorists”. His comments were met with controversy. Some voices asked:

  • Does Vinter’s language suggest our conflict with the Palestinians is the extension of a religious war rooted in the Bible, and not an example of a State defending itself against a terror organization?
  • Do we wish for the soldiers of the IDF to see their battle as religious?
  • What should be the rhetorical tone of our wartime statements?
  • How do our Jewish sources refer to war, and to this particular piece of land now called the Gaza Strip?

How does Biblical Gaza echo in our conversations about current Gaza?

How do mythical references to Philistines connect with Palestinians of today?

We invite you to dig into the biblical echoes of this piece of land.

The Kotel

We created the following materials for the Jewish Agency’s exploration of solutions for the Western Wall, in February 2013, and thought they may be of more general value. Since then, Natan Sharansky, the Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, moved forward with his recommendations for the Prime Minister, and Rabbi Yitz Greenberg called for the orthodox establishment to support it.  This additional article explores the Israel-Diaspora divide on the subject. As of mid-June 2013, significant concerns about the feasibility of Sharansky’s plan have arisen.

This was the opening video at the start of the Town Hall Meeting convened by Natan Sharansky and the Committee for the Unity of the Jewish People.

 

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This is a thought-sheet, meant to be printed on A4 paper and folded in two. Click here for a free printable download.

 

This is a timeline, also for an A4 fold. Click here for a free printable download

 

Talking Israel - with Bnai Jeshurun's R. Marcelo Bronstein

Talking Israel is a series of video conversations between R. Marcelo Bronstein of Bnai Jeshurun in New York, and an Israeli personality who both embodies and engages in Israel’s vibrant complexity. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

We wanted to talk with Israelis whose windows are open, but who are not blown off their feet…

 

Equally profoundly, the Rav Kook taught about “אחדות ההפכים” – the unification of opposites, as a paradoxical route to a higher understanding of peace.

We wanted to dialogue with Israelis who live and work with opposites…

 

This is a project initiated by BJ and run with Makom, that combines video dialogue followed by study in New York with a group of invited guests.

Moving Israel Education - Global Jewish Forum V

Global Jewish Forum

MAKOM - Global Jewish forumWhere the Jewish Agency gathers Jewish leaders from around the world for deep consideration of the pressing issues of the Jewish People. Makom designs and facilitates a day dedicated to moving beyond the communal headlines to examine the deep issues that drive them. At the GJF International Jewish leaders deliberately does not take decisions, but together decides to deliberate… Young committed adults sit around the table with institutional leaders, sharing perspectives and gaining understanding.

Moving Israel Education

 

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Introduction on behalf of the Assembly of the Jewish Agency for Israel:
Rabbi Bennett Miller, Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and Senior Rabbi at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ.
Opening:
Kathy Manning, member of the Makom Committee, and immediate past Chair of the Board of Jewish Federations of North America

Click here for the basis of the opening remarks

The Makom Matrix of Israel Engagement:
Robbie Gringras

Click here for a full video explaining the Makom Matrix
Click here for a short written explanation

What’s going on with our kids?
Dr. Alex Pomson
Videos and small group discussions
Break
“It’s more complicated than that”
Robbie Gringras

Click here for the original text

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Open Salon conversation moderated by Yonatan Ariel
Dyonna Ginsberg, Director of Service Learning, Jewish Agency for Israel 
Simon Klarfeld, Director of Young Judea
Dr Zohar Raviv, International VP for Education Birthright Taglit
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Social Media Editor, Times of Israel

Click here to download the live projected notes that were taken during the Open Salon

Summing up:
John Ruskay, Executive Vice-President and CEO, UJA-Federation of New York
Closing remarks:
Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel
 

Download the Source Book

Click here to download the printable pdf
Click here to download the kindle version

Hot Topics

Makom’s Hot Topics aim to ask Jewish questions of Israeli current affairs.

Designed to be short, accessible, and challenging, each Hot Topic attempts to ask us to align our Jewish identity with the ongoing drama of Israel and the Jewish People.

We are currently experimenting with a double-format – two pieces from two different perspectives on the same issue… Comments are welcome!

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