What are we all about? What kind of Israel engagement is Makom aiming for?
We would say that underlying all our work is an approach that looks for both knowledge and connection.
The conversation begins with the Makom Matrix…
The Makom Matrix was born out of a recognition that “loving Israel” is not sustainable without knowledge, and that “knowing about” Israel is insufficient without personal connection.
Up until recently Israel education has been judged on a sliding scale of connection. How far “inside” the Israel discourse have we brought the learners? The further “inside” the learners, the more affection there is for Israel, and the more Israel is a component part of the learners’ Jewish identity. Israel is, in this sense, inside them. By contrast to be on the outside could be compared with the wicked son in the Haggada on Seder night. Someone on the “outside” would place him/herself on the outside of the Israel discourse, talking of Israelis and Israeli concerns in the third person plural, rather than the first.
We at MAKOM propose the addition of a second axis referring to knowledge – a high-resolution or low-resolution view of Israel, in order to allow us to guage a careful combination between knowledge and connection.
In this measure, “Low-resolution” would suggest that green is green. “High-resolution” on the other hand, allows for green to break down into its component parts and become blue and yellow. And Hamas. And Environmental Issues. And Egged buses. And Maccabi Haifa soccer club. And and… The higher the resolution, the more knowledge, detail and nuance we are able to access.
In the early days of the State, the appropriate goal of Israel education was to bring learners into the bottom right-hand quadrant. The broad picture was clear and demanding: We needed to establish a State. Instinctive commitment was the order of the day, and nuances were not as important.
We believe that in order to engage with Israel and to commit to Israel these days, the learner must be familiar and comfortable with complexity. Hence the current aim for Israel education must be for us to bring learners in to the top right-hand quadrant.
The bottom right-hand quadrant is where hugging takes place; of giving love and support to Israel. The top right-hand quadrant is the place for both hugging and wrestling. Those who live in the bottom right-hand quadrant understanding that Zionism is about living as a Free Jewish People in our Land. But they also believe that these three values, Freedom, Jewish Peoplehood, and Our Land, coexist in perfect harmony. In the top right-hand quadrant, we also affirm that Zionism is about living as a Free Jewish People in our Land, but we acknowledge that there are often tensions and conflicts between these values!
How to apply the matrix to your work?
Where would you situate yourself on the matrix? Where would you place your students on this matrix? Where would you like to bring them?
If for example you situate your learners in the bottom right-hand quadrant, (emotionally committed to Israel, but lacking detail and nuance), then you might aim to bring them upwards into the top right-hand quadrant, to combine their affection with knowledge. If you were to place your learners in the top-right hand quadrant, judging that they have a great deal of knowledge about aspects of Israel but no affection or identification, then the work would be to find intelligent ways of inviting them “inside”, moving towards the top right quadrant.
So far so straightforward. The questions arise those we might locate in the bottom left-hand quadrant. How might we bring this learner into the top right quadrant? A traditional approach would suggest we need first to bring students inside at the “low-res”, and then take them up into a “high-res” connection with Israel. “First get them to fall in love, and only then raise the resolution”. We would suggest that there is a flaw in this “right-angled vector”, and that we should aim for a more diagonal, spiraling vector that develops the learners’ capacity for complexity as an integral part of getting to know Israel.
Using the Matrix as a getting-to-know-you tool
Present the Matrix on a whiteboard, and then invite people to draw a line on the Matrix tracing the development of their connection to Israel.
“I was born in a Zionistic community that taught Modern Hebrew in kindergarten [bottom-right], then I went to a Zionist youth movement [line moves gradually upwards] then Rabin was assassinated and I was devastated and disillusioned [line swerves to the left], and then I went on Masa [line travels diagonally upwards and to the right]”
“I was born in a town far from any Jews, with very little connection to Israel [bottom left], then I got to New York and started learning about Judaism [line moves to the right and slightly higher]. Then I went to study at Pardes and fell in love with Israel and everything about it [line moves sharply upwards and slightly to the right] – and then I learned that according to this country I am not officially Jewish and I just want to go home [line shifts dramatically to the left, and higher].
In this way the Matrix points to an overall aim of our work, offers a tool to map the parameters of success, and a method for discussion Israel connection.