Everything changed for me in the middle of March.
I was booked to meet a Birthright Israel group for a geopolitical lecture. They didn’t end up flying here.
Then it was a Building Bridges delegation from my alma mater in the states to discuss the dueling narratives of the Conflict. They also didn’t come.
I was supposed to then give a presentation on the Zionist narrative to a dialogue group of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Americans volunteering at the Arava Institute. They stopped meeting in person and were zoomed out.
But there were still my gap year students. They were still here and learning.
For a week.
Then they started flying back to the States one by one. Classes were cancelled, while some moved over to Zoom.
In a matter of days, there was no one to educate. All my assumptions about my work as an Israel educator changed.
Coronavirus has forced us to reimagine Israel education. So my team and I at Makom started to grapple with some questions, such as:
How are we supposed to be Israel educators for young English-speaking Jews if they no longer are in Israel?
Is it even possible or should we just wait until they can come to us or vice versa?
How can we translate what we do when we can’t meet students in person?
While nothing can replace the power of a peer-led educational trip to Israel, learning about Israel out in the field or hearing a geopolitical briefing on Israel’s borders, we believe this Israel voice and direct connection to the country cannot be lost during this time.
That is why we’ve come up with one idea we think can make a difference to continue to do what we do.
The IMPACT Israel Fellowship, a multidimensional online learning and leadership experience, aims to address the serious concern that students will have considerably less interaction with Israel-based educators, thought leaders and the people of Israel.
We believe this program will empower our students to lead the conversation about Israel as an idea, value and nation state of the Jewish people.
Fellows will have the opportunity to learn from experienced educators and expert guest speakers. They will debate and discuss collectively as a cohort, in breakout groups, and in 1-on-1 Hevrutot (pairs). Consulting with mentors, fellows will work on a project to engage with an authentic challenge they identify and find meaningful to explore. Lastly upon completion of the program, fellows will join an alumni network to strengthen connections and lead communal discourse through conferences in person and/or online to aid fellows in their shared goals.
We are looking for partners to offer this exciting initiative — camps, schools, campus organizations, young adult leadership, federations, etc.
I invite you to visit our pilot website – impactisraelfellowship.com – which shares our vision, how it works, confirmed expert speakers and faculty, as well as a sample fellowship program.
The coronavirus has forced us to reconsider many of our assumptions about so many things. Israel education is not exempt from this exercise.
The IMPACT Israel Fellowship is just one initiative we think can continue our objectives as Israel educators during this very new reality.
If you are interested in reimagining Israel education with us please feel free to be in touch and share your ideas.
Director, Gap-Year Initiative, MAKOM