Strategies for teaching Israel as the Vision and Venture of the Jewish People
There are many ways of teaching about Israel, and each institution and educator, implicitly or explicitly, chooses the way in which he or she presents the various narratives related to Israel, its history and contemporary reality.
Sometimes Israel is taught as a stand-alone topic, separate from broader Jewish history or civilization, or as a purely Zionist story that is seen as divorced from the broader story of the Jewish People. It is often framed as part of an individual’s Jewish identity but not significant from a collective perspective.
The educational goal of our proposed approach is to re-anchor Israel in the Peoplehood paradigm, which is based on the assumption that the State of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People, and the central project of the Jewish People in modern times.
Engaging and feeling part of the Jewish People requires an engagement with the Land and State of Israel. In this context, Israel is a unifying force rather than a divisive one; it is a broad topic that welcomes diversity (of people, narratives, cultures), and it is part of a broader story of the Jewish People, rather than a stand-alone topic.
In order to teach Israel from a Peoplehood perspective, we propose beginning the educational journey by highlighting the role the Jewish People played in envisioning and building the State. Introducing the challenges, issues, aspirations and goals of the visionaries of the State provides crucial context for this conversation.
So does the story of the pioneers as Jews who left their old countries in pursuance of a new Jewish future. In addition, the story of millions of Jews throughout the world who focus(ed) their lives and passions on the young State needs to be told. It is the story of Israel as the venture of the Jewish collective.
After establishing that context, there is room for discussion – through text study, Israel visits and mifgashim – of the status of the relationship to Israel today and into the future. Core issues, such as the vision for Israel as the State of the Jewish People and the nature of the partnership between world Jews and Israel, needs to be discussed and addressed.
The critical issue is to ensure that there is mutuality and partnership between Israelis and non-Israeli Jews, as both are equally valuable members of the Jewish People.
Once there is dialogue, there is room to discuss commitment. Here again, there is a wide range of options from being an local activist, to spending time in Israel involved in an area close to the individual’s heart.
The important point is the global sense of ownership to this important Jewish enterprise. Once established, there is no option for indifference or turning one’s back on Israel. Rather, it behooves the active member of the Jewish People to work to improve the realities that are not welcome.
Teaching Towards Israel Engagement
The Pedagogic Introduction provides an overview to the principles of a pedagogy for exposing students, in all settings and ages, to Jewish Peoplehood. As is described in more detail in the introduction the pedagogy consists of three components:
- Engagement with the Jewish People – Connecting with the Heart
- Developing Peoplehood Commitment through knowledge – Connecting with the mind
- Motivating Action-oriented expressions of belonging to the Jewish collective enterprise – Connecting with the Hands
The Education Toolkit is a tool for the world-wide community of Jewish educators. We are committed to sharing resources across the field, and encourage educators to share their own resources and lesson plans, allowing us to create a user-driven program bank.
Ideas for Sparking Engagement
Designed to focus on emotional engagement, motivation to learn, pride, solidarity and connection.
- Explore contemporary Israeli culture and arts, particularly music and movies. Arts and culture provide an accessible and fun way to engage with Israel, particularly in an affective manner. Other cultural expressions, such as food and ethnic customs, are also good ways to introduce students to the diversity and vibrancy of Israeli society.
- Celebrate Israeli milestones or holidays.
- Arrange a mifgash with Israelis, either in your local community or in Israel. Look for common beliefs, values and customs, as well as those that are different.
Ideas for Strengthening Commitment
Designed to provide students with more knowledge that will help them understand what contemporary Israel is all about and how they can build a relationship with it.
Content areas that relate to Israel from a Peoplehood perspective are:
- Jewish texts that deal with the Land of Israel and the Jewish connection to the land. This can include prayers, Jewish laws that deal with the land, etc.
- The history of Zionism, particularly: Zionist ideologies; Zionist thinkers; stories of the aliyot and immigrant communities; the relationship between Zionist leaders and Jewish communities all over the world.
- Hebrew language, as a unifying force between Jewish communities.
- Diverse expressions of contemporary Israeli culture, highlighting different ethnic and immigrant groups and their food, music, art, cultural customs.
Ideas for Motivating Action
Designed to give students concrete outlets for their motivation and connection, and to strengthen their relationship to Israel through action.
- Create a mifgash with Jews of the same age in another country or city. Develop a shared activity or learning project for the Israelis and non-Israelis to do together. For example, students (in both groups) could interview their family members and share stories of immigration; students (in both groups) could make a film about their city and/or local community and teach each other about where they live; students (in both groups) could do a joint philanthropic project where they raise money for each other’s city and create concrete ways to allocate their funds together.
- Develop a class project (as a whole class or in small groups) that researches a particular topic in Israel, either a social issue, historical event or a geographic place (perhaps linked to your Partnership2gether community). Create an exhibit that presents the findings, or make a video or slideshow for the families to watch.
- Make (and sell to your community) a recipe book of Israeli recipes that reflect diverse cultures and cuisines that Jews brought to Israel. Accompany the recipes with photos and stories.
- Plan a trip to Israel for your students.