The Gaza Conflict – Materials for the Educator


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.


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.


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:

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.

Digging Deeper

Gaza Conflict – What should Jews in the Diaspora DO?


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At Makom we invest a great deal of time into working out what the Jewish world might ideally be asking and thinking about Israel. Given the terribly painful period we are going through right now, we thought it would be important to gather a range of voices about what Jews in the Diaspora should DO?

The place of fear, faith, and love in times of war

July 18, 2014 by

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This beautiful and thoughtful piece was written in 2006, during the 2nd Lebanon War. Once again our Israeli Government has decided to put troops on the ground, this time in Gaza once more. Sara Eisen’s words still ring true and current.


A society with a healthy dose of fear gives me faith. And a home.

A well-known editor of a widely read Jewish American weekly wrote recently of his deep fear that Israel, with its many hostile and tacit enemies, may be (God forbid, he added) on its way out. The truth is that there is no way to make someone feel better about a qualm like that. It is a logical fear – – although logic, for better and worse, has never been the stuff of Jewish, and especially not Israeli, survival.

The other truth is that scary columns are useful, even when they contain no real operative suggestions, because anxiety often – or hopefully – prompts communal discourse, action, and change. My (quasi-logical) response to him, in Jewish fashion, is a problem, and a Talmudic reinterpretation of Churchill:

Prove: Fear is fine (just not by itself.)

Theorem #1:
Wives and mothers of conscripted Israeli soldiers, and not only the citizens of Gaza and Lebanon, are the people most afraid of Israeli soldiers showing up at their doorsteps.

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Echoes of Gaza


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The commander of the IDF Givati Brigade wrote in biblical passion to his soldiers of our fight against “Gazan terrorists”. His words and rhetoric were met with a great deal of 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?


Vinter’s comment was not without current or biblical context. Controversy in the Bnei Akiva movement also raged recently after the three kidnapped youths were found murdered, when the Secretary General Rabbi Rabbi Noam Perel wrote on his facebook that:  “An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand revenge,” and specifically referred to how the Israeli “army of avengers” should not to stop at “300 Philistine foreskins.”

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.

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Times of Trouble


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July 2014 has been a tough time. A time of trouble.

How have our traditions responded to times of trouble in the past of the Jewish People?



To download and print, click here

Is it worth it? Program for adults and teens


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Before even beginning to talk about Israel, it’s worth checking some basic assumptions.

Here is an easy one.

If someone put a gun to your head and told you to hand over your iPhone or they’d shoot, we’re guessing you would rush to say goodbye to instagram.

We reckon you might not even put up a fight to save your car, if the fight meant risking your life.

How about your house?

Is there anything, or anyone, for whom you would risk your life?

Or in Tom Petty’s words:

Well I know what’s right,
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down

Is there anything you “won’t back down” from?

It’s a question worth asking before condemning warfare out of hand:

Is there anything worth fighting for? To Full Post

How do I stand with Israel?


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This is a program that explores different expressions of solidarity with Israel during the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. (Hence the Shay Charka cartoon above makes reference to Hurricane Sandy.) What was the language used? What are the underlying values of the different expressions?

Work with this program to help participants develop an understanding of the nuance and fundamental ideas that lie behind public expressions of solidarity.

Feel free to print out the pdf from here.


Is the IDF moral?


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Morality and ethics in the times of war are complex at the best of times. But when a national army fights a non-identified combatants in civilian territory, the issues are even more involved.

Here is an annotated edit of Professor Moshe Halbertal eloquently and concisely summing up the moral dilemmas facing the modern soldier. Immediately following it are guided questions and a study sheet on these issues.

In order to download the study sheet for print out, click here.


For further reading:

The Laws of War 

International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings New York, 15 December 1997

International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism New York, 9 December 1999

War and international humanitarian law 


The Funnies from the War


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The Israeli sense of humor, especially during war times, tends to be immediate and sharp. That Anglo-Saxon trope of “Too soon?” rarely concerns the Israeli. In 2012 we gathered some of our favorite memes, tweets, and statuses from Operation Pillar of Defense – adding translations and explanations. (It’s true, one should never explain a joke, but if we don’t explain, only Israelis would find it funny!)

We tried to leave out all the borderline racist, sexist, or divisively political ones… Enjoy!

Kipat Barzel is Hebrew for the Iron Dome missile defence system, which downed several Fajer rockets sent over from Gaza. If you’ve seen The Princess Bride, you’ll need no more information, and if you haven’t that’s outrageous…. To Full Post

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