Friday, October 9, 2009

Israel is Complicated

Israel is always in the news, out of all proportion to its physical size and probably also out of proportion to its real impact on world events. One can read articles suggesting that unconditional support of Israel and all its policies is vital to her survival, and one can read articles suggesting that it is precisely such support that is the cause of all the world's problems.

More troubling to many Jewish educators is the fact that many of our students are not sufficiently engaged in thinking about Israel at all to have formed meaningful opinions. They just don't care. To paraphrase a popular phrase, "They're just not that into Israel!"

The Jewish community has tried in many ways to engage American Jewish young people with Israel. We write curricula, we sponsor trips, we show movies, we bring speakers - the list is endless. Some techniques work for some people, others for other people, some better, some not so well.

One thing is for sure - there is no single magic trick that will work all the time for all the learners. This post is one idea among many that you may want to try.

If it works, please leave a comment so others can benefit from your experience.

If you have another idea, please share it with other readers.

If the suggestion falls on its face, perhaps you have an idea for making it better.

Good luck, Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach.

Big Idea:
  • The relationship between American Jews and Israel is complex but important
Essential Questions:
  • How do American Jews create/sustain/change/understand/express their relationship to Israel?
  • How can we as Jewish educators engage our learners in serious analysis of their relationship to Israel?
Learning Activities:
  • Compare and contrast the two articles at the links here. One is by Jay Michaelson, and is entitled How I'm Losing My Love for Israel. The other, a reponse to Michaelson's essay, is by Daniel Gordis, entitled No Right to Exhaustion. What do these two authors have in common? How do they differ?
  • Read Deep Denial, by Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, and read Jonathan Sarna's article in HaAretz, Why are American Jews Abandoning Israel? What do these two authors have in common? How do they differ?
  • JStreet and AIPAC are two organizations which state their support for Israel. Go to each of their websites at the links here. What do they have in common? How do they differ?
  • Write to one of the authors of the articles above explaining why you agree or disagree with his expressed opinion
  • Create a visual display that illustrates one of the articles you agree with. You may want to work with a partner to do this.
  • Follow reports on Israel for one week, either in a newspaper, on TV, or on other media. At the end of the week, create a timeline of events that you learned about.
  • Formulate a statement that articulates the way(s) in which you expect to learn more about Israel in the future.

At the end of the period during which you and your students are together, they may or may not come to the same conclusions about Israel that you have.

Hopefully what they will have developed is an interest in being actively engaged with Israel.

Hopefully they will care about Israel.

Hopefully they will continue to struggle with the challenge of being American Jews in a relationship with Israel.

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