Israel & Zionism Education
Download this edition of HaYidion in PDF format
For the cover of this issue of HaYidion, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to celebrate the theme by creating the Israeli flag from images found on the website Flickr (photo album sharing website), using the keywords “Israel” and “Zionism.” We anticipated a photo gallery awash with blue and white, family vacation photos at the Dead Sea, close-ups of the Kotel and the like... boy, were we surprised. Most of the images this query brought up were of a clearly anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic nature. Swastikas in place of the Star of David, Nazi caricatures of Jews, pictures of the wounded in Gaza and Lebanon, Palestinian flags, blood-stained hands and countless photos of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
While this would have made for a shocking (if controversial) cover, frankly, it was painful to look at and we didn’t feel comfortable displaying those images on the front of HaYidion. We returned to Flickr and searched this time using the keywords “Israel” and “Judaism.” The resulting 6,889 mostly positive images comprise this outer cover. The cover still contains quite a few disturbing images, but as a whole, most of the pictures that make up the Israeli flag are of a pro-Israel nature.
Displayed here on the right, is the cover that would have appeared had we relied only on the terms “Israel” and “Zionism.” The extraordinary differences between these two image sets raise important questions about Zionism, Israel, Judaism, Jews and how we are perceived in the eyes of the world. The final version used for the cover is displayed on the left.
The Internet is the new public square, an uncensored and un-edited forum. All of these photos - and the messages they convey - are just a few clicks away.
To see all of these images in detail, click on the two covers below (these links will download a PDF file of the cover to your computer). Please send your own photos of “Israel” and “Zionism” to firstname.lastname@example.org. ♦
♦ Barbara Davis
One of the speakers at our recent RAVSAK conference noted, “Things are bad. But we are Jews, we’ve seen worse.” His optimism based on pessimism is quintessentially Jewish. It reminds me of a joke making the rounds in Israel: A group of elderly, retired men gather each morning at a café in Tel Aviv. They drink their coffee and sit for hours discussing the world situation. Given the state of the world, their talks are quite depressing. One day, one of the men startles the others by announcing, “You know what? I am an optimist.” The others are shocked, but then one of them notices something fishy. “Wait a minute! If you’re an optimist, why do you look so worried?” The first man replies, “You think it’s easy being an optimist?”
♦ Susan Weintrob
The RAVSAK conference has always been a storm’s haven for so many of us. Intensely busy in our professional lives, here is a time that we meet friends, find new solutions and forge a sense of community with our fellow practitioners and trustees.
♦ Alex Sinclair
What do we mean by high quality Israel education and engagement? Many thinkers have in recent years urged us to stop thinking about Israel through what Cohen and Liebman (“Israel and American Jewry in the Twenty-First Century”) call the “mobilization model,” in which Israel is primarily seen as in need of both financial support and political advocacy. In the past, this model may have worked: the “narrative” of Israel was that of a despised but heroic David surrounded by a series of genocidal Goliaths, a refuge for Jews ejected from the third world, and a country struggling with enormous economic problems, in need of every penny from abroad that it could muster.
♦ Kenneth W. Stein
In teaching history, the most difficult task remains creating context: catapulting students back into a different time frame and having them disregard their contemporary historical perspective. The goal is to “witness” history as it unfolded, not as it concluded.
♦ Gordon Bernat-Kunin
In After Virtue, communitarian philosopher Alasdaire MacIntyre makes a case for a narrative understanding of who we are. Imagine a man standing in front of his house with a tool in his hand. To the question, “What is he doing?” one might respond: “Digging,” “Gardening,” “Taking Exercise,” “Preparing for winter,” or “Pleasing his wife.” In order to understand what the man is doing, we must understand where he comes from (origins), where he is going (telos), and the values and virtues which guide him. Likewise, a meaningful understanding of a school’s Israel education program requires an understanding of its guiding assumptions, its larger purposes, and its primary values and virtues.
♦ Alick Isaacs
A great deal has happened in the short time that has elapsed since I first agreed to write this piece. Then again, not everything has changed. The big question—How should we deal with “Israel” in Jewish education?—remains as it was. However, it seems to me that the particular context that makes this question acute at this time is now suddenly redefined both by the ascendance of a new administration in Washington and by the “war” in Gaza.
♦ Gary Kenzer
You click on any news .com and notice a hot new development in the Mideast. How should you go about analyzing the news report? There are certain questions you can keep in mind that may reveal underlying bias. For example:
♦ Ethan Hammerman
Advocating for Israel is really important. Building up a strong support base at home is the only thing that can solidify support for Israel abroad. Now, especially after the crisis in the Gaza Strip, it is important to show others the truth behind the dark proceedings precipitated by Hamas’s relentless barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel.
♦ Paul Shaviv
Israeli emigrants are now a significant part of every Diaspora community, in some places accounting for 25% or more of the local Jewish population. It has been extremely difficult to recruit them into the Jewish Day school system. Why?
♦ Vardit Ringvald
The dissection of the relationship between Hebrew language and Israel studies in Jewish day schools reflects the ongoing conversation among foreign language educators about the relationship between the teaching of a target language and the teaching of a target culture within the foreign language classroom.
♦ Alex Pomson and Howard Deitcher
Jewish day schools are very busily engaged in the work of Israel education. In fact, there may be no other area of day school education where there is so much activity, as the advertisements in this journal attest. There are new curriculum packages, many professional development opportunities for teachers, and no lack of short- and long-term experiences available in Israel for both students and teachers. We suspect that much of this activity is intended both to address the widely discussed disconnect between American Jewish youth and Israel, and to bolster elements in the students’ Jewish identities. We ask: how well conceived and how coherent is all of this work?
♦ Arieh Saposnik
Israel Studies—an academic field that was all but nonexistent a few years ago—has emerged in recent years as a rapidly growing (and evolving) field in American universities. The circumstances of its growth reflect the fault lines inherent in the field. The appearance of Israel Studies programs, chairs, and visiting scholars has, to a large extent, been the product of intense activity by donors concerned with Israel’s image on American campuses. While this has been a welcome development, it has also created a certain tension in some areas between the concern and interest of the donor organizations and individuals on the one hand and the academic demand for disinterested and dispassionate research and teaching on the other hand. And if this is true on the institutional level, it is in many respects a reflection of the kinds of dilemmas faced on a personal level by scholars whose research and teaching focuses on Zionism and Israel.
♦ Anna Kolodner and Jonina Pritzker
In January 2009 Israel is fighting in Gaza to defend its citizens from rocket attacks launched by Hamas. At the same time, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment stoked by the situation in Gaza is accelerating throughout the US and Europe. We see virulent anti-Israel demonstrations calling for the destruction and isolation of the Jewish state. Hamas supporters accuse Israel of “genocide” and “war crimes.” Supporters of Israel and Jews everywhere are on the defensive against a well organized and well funded opposition that dominates the media, negatively influencing public discourse. The confluence of these events exposes the vulnerability of our educational system, yet defines the elements which must be rebuilt, our sense of Jewish peoplehood, identity, and connection to Israel.
♦ Ezra Kopelowitz
There are at least five dimensions in which Israel is part of the educational experience at a Jewish school: the (1) aesthetic/decorative, (2) ceremonial, (3) conversational/interactive, (4) curricula and (5) school management dimensions. To think strategically about the development of “Israel education as a discipline,” we need first to describe all five dimensions and then ask a prescriptive question: How should educators incorporate these five dimensions into an overall strategy for Israel education?
♦ Robbie Gringras
Under the weight of an ominous, foreboding soundtrack, the shooting cars begin to slow to a halt. We are looking down on a highway from a bridge, cars gradually coming to a standstill with no construction in sight. It is nighttime. The picture is grainy, dark, and the headlights streak the screen. Images are overlain, such that as the cars slow down, they leave a blur behind them. Ghostlike. And one by one the car doors open, and the drivers step out. They stand in silence.
♦ Rafi Cohen
In response to Operation Cast Lead and the ongoing conflicts facing Israel, Rafi Cohen, our graduate intern, has compiled a list of activities that schools and students can do today to express their support for Israel.
♦ Anne Lanski
One of the most powerful dimensions of Israel for me over all the years has been its all-encompassing nature. A true relationship with Israel isn’t one casual date: it’s an all-embracing roller-coaster, a perpetual romance. Visiting Israel, and even more living there, is a total entry into a gripping twenty-first century souk of people, fragrances, sounds, ideas, accents, beliefs, and garb.
♦ RAVSAK Staff
This column features books, articles, and websites, recommended by our authors and people from the RAVSAK network, pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion for readers who want to investigate the topic in greater depth.
Israel in Our Schools
That programs and opportunities enable students in RAVSAK schools to have meaningful encounters with the people, life and culture of Israel? HaYidion received a variety of responses, from sister-school programs and remarkable centers in Israel to shlichim and periodicals that bring Israel to our campuses. These pieces not only describe their programs but also consider what makes them effective. Perhaps they will inspire fresh ideas for bringing Israel to life for your students.
♦ Galit Crammer Bar-Tuv
You come highly motivated, full of ideology; some of you think you have all the answers to the problems of the golah. Then you fall into a community or a school that is already well established, with strong feelings about Israel and about their Jewish identity. It only takes a short period to realize that your current plans are irrelevant for these people. Instead of teaching, you learn from them. Instead of being strong, you are taken care of. Then you wonder, what is my shlichut (mission)?
♦ Irit Kuba
“This week was the best week of school I’ve ever had because this week the students from our twinned school in Israel came to our school and our houses.” (Wornick 7th grade student)
♦ Amy Wasser
Entering into our ninth year of Israel trip programming, the Hillel School of Tampa will once again visit Lifeline for the Old, Yad LaKashish. Together with our traveling partners from B’nai Shalom Day School of Greensboro, North Carolina, each year we bring our students to this unique institution in the heart of Jerusalem. Founded many years ago by a woman named Miriam Mendilow, Lifeline opens its doors to elderly citizens who would otherwise have nowhere to go.
♦ Tamara David
The value of studying a foreign language is well documented: children who study a second language have higher scores on standardized tests, demonstrate increased mental flexibility, creativity, divergent thinking and higher order thinking skills, develop a sense of cultural pluralism and have an improved self concept and sense of achievement. In the context of a Jewish community day school, the study of modern Hebrew produces all these results and many more: increased identification with the State of Israel, greater pride in being Jewish, and the ability to function with greater ease and fluency when they travel to Israel.
♦ Harry Sinoff
Herzl/RMHA has developed a new model for promoting relationships between our students and Israel. It is really a simple idea: our 10th grade lives for 6 weeks in the Environmental High School on Midreshet Ben Gurion. While their Israeli peers are in classes, our students have ulpan, or if their Hebrew is adequate, they attend regular high school classes. After classes our students are folded into the high school extracurricular activities and spend their free time with Israeli peers.