In the traditional Jewish community, long before there was a Zionist movement or a state of Israel, the “connection to Israel” was built in to everyday life. The entire calendar of holidays, the words of the daily prayers, the everyday detail of the stories of the Bible and the laws of the Mishnah – all were permeated with Israel: its landscape, its climate, its agriculture, its geography.
The success of Zionism has led to the crisis of Israel education. Now that Israel is a modern state, now that we have “returned to history” with all the unpleasantness and difficult dilemmas that that entails – and now that in our modernization we have lost much of the substrate of tradition in which our Israel connection was rooted – we are left trying to create a new connection to Israel, based on the assumption of the Zionist revolution: that Judaism is a nationality, not a religion.
The difficulty that the modern or post-modern North American Jew has in defining his/her Jewish identity (religious? ethnic? national? universalistic?) creates a parallel difficulty in defining his/her relationship to Israel – and this in turn leaves educators without clearly defined goals and outcomes. This whole course is designed to help teachers grapple with this situation and formulate their own responses. This first lesson is meant to articulate the problem, and start the deliberation process that will, hopefully, run throughout the course.