Sunday, July 16, 2006

Teaching Israel

Shalom webfreinds,
I’ve recently returned from an invigorating educational sojourn in the Holy land, where I attended a conference with the a keen group of smiling academics and school teachers.

Below are three models we discussed for teaching Israel.

Option Aleph) The Classical Zionist Approach
The ‘evil goyim’ tried to kill us throughout our history, from Shushan to Chmielnitski and Kishinev (they were cities before they were pogroms). They killed us in the present generation, Shoah, because the diaspora is doomed (France, Argentina), therefore Aliyah for all is the only answer. Our role models should be those who die for the homeland like Trumpeldor, Eli Cohen, Yoni Netanyahu.
Proponents: Theodore Herzl, Tuvia Book, The Palmach Museum

Option Beit) The Religious Zionist Approach
The first Olim were not the Hovevi Tziyon in 1882, but Avraham Avinu who was on the first nefesh be nefesh trip from Ur Kasdim to Cannan in 1700BCE. Since then, all Jews have wanted to return, but didn’t ’cause they were waiting for mashiach. These folks decided its time to stop waiting. Israel is “reshit tzmichat geualteinu,” If only we can occupy the entire biblical moledet.

The religious Zionists (orange camp) were very upset with Gaza disengagement last year. We watched a video that made us cry. It showed the pain of the 0.5% of Jews who had to leave their villas and featured not a single one of the 99.5% of the Palestinians who suffered under this occupation for 39 years.
Proponents: No hard-core representatives of this group addressed us.

Option Gimmel) The Peoplehood (yes, it is a real word despite my spellchecker thinking otherwise) Approach
Jews live all over the world and we each have amazing stories to tell that we can learn from. Students should feel they are Jewish citizens of earth, rather than exiled spectators to the main event, which is Israel. The centre of the Jewish world has moved from Cannan, to Babylon, Cordoba, Mainz, Kairwan(Tunis) and now to Israel. It will keep moving as Jews keep moving. Our role as educators is to have students “connecting with community.”
Proponents: Steve Israel, Dena Thaller
Some say that the Centre for Teaching of Jewish Peoplehood at TA University, may be the Yad Vashem of the next generation.

My thoughts

Each model has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. But as was said many times, “the medium is the message,” which means HOW you teach Israel is just as important as WHAT you teach.

Finally, there are so many sweet tidbits of goodness going on in Israel that few people are aware of, like the Sapir Academic College in Sderot that provides an education and a better future to the olim from places like Chechniya. Like Rabbi Motti-Bar Or, whose amazing organization Kolot changes the perception of Limmud Torah being only for the datiyim, and returns, as God did at Mt Sinai, the ownership of our scared texts to the entire Jewish people (females and secular included). Like the thousands who watched the World Cup final on a warm Tel-Aviv Beach and cheered for Italy because they are LESS anti-Semitic.
Like the Ma'ale School of Television, Film and the Arts, which is providing an avenue for the young religious to raise questions that have been condemned by an earlier generation.
Like Dr Tova Hartman, who is challenging the models of negative identity by which we have so long perceived ourselves, like Rav Binyamin Lau, who has moved from Hitnatkut (Disengagement) to Hitchabrut (Connection) in reaching out to the Jews of greater Judea and Samaria. And finally, like Robbie Gringlas, who "shlectures” about us having a mature relationship with 58 year old Israel, warts and all, that can be filled with anger, tears, laughter and song. Shkoyach to you all!


Anonymous said...

Hi all,in light of recent events...have a look at Time Essay July 10,2006. No matter from what perspective you teach Israel or where you start from, 3000 years ago or one year ago...the present situation is not about "occupation".

Ittay said...

Recent events aside, none of us like the word ‘occupation’, but I don’t know how else to describe the situation in Gaza before disengagement. What would you call not being able to go to work on random days, waiting five hours to get to school each day, not being able to visit your cousin in the next village, not having very basic services(water, electricity), whilst your Israeli neighbours play on green lawns, constantly being at risk of becoming the next civilian casualty, because you happen to live in the wrong house…etc… I don’t like that this situation existed in Gaza and I don’t like that it continues to exist in Yesha. The scenario of Israel being the arbiter for all Palestinians rights needs to end sooner rather than later, for our sake as much as theirs.

Liss said...

Shalom-Aleichem Ittay!

Shkoyakh on this excellent, thought-provoking post. I've been thinking about this kind of stuff A LOT over the past few weeks. (And here I'd like to make a SHAMELESS plug for the latest entry in my own blog... you should read it.) Basically, the more I think about it, the more I feel like jumping onto the 'dokait' bandwagon. I'm not saying that my religious Zionist education was wholly bad, I just think it was wholly inadequate. I totally support the existence of Israel (even though I'm critical of what's happening now, but I won't go into that here), so I guess that makes me a Zionist, but I don't think that Israel should be framed of the centre of the Jewish world in Jewish education, because it's not. It's A centre, and a very, very important one, but you DON'T need to indoctrinate kids into a culture of paranoia and victimisation and marginalisation to give them a strong sense of Jewish identity and a appreciation/love/commitment to Israel. You can love Israel and Chutz L'Aretz at the same time. You can even consider Chutz L'Aretz MORE imporant: that doesn’t mean you’re a bad Jew, or that you hate Israel. That sort of Yiddishkeit is just as legitimate. (I just wish someone had told us that at Yavneh.)

Ittay said...

G’day Liss,
Good to hear from you. I love your Yiddish word of the day+picture, even though I don’t understand most of them. It’s interesting you mentioned “doiket” because when Steve Israel spoke about his idea(option gimmel in this blog), I said to him, wouldn’t that make you a bundist? I don’t think he liked the question, but I noticed he didn’t use the word “centre” to describe Israel as you do, and he also even floated the idea of Israeli Jews spending their first year after high school in the Diaspora working in community, which could give them a greater appreciation of Jewish life beyond their borders. He proposed as well, more radically, that it would also be appropriate for Diaspora kids to spend a year in other diasporas, he suggested Hungary or Germany as examples of dynamic growing communities, instead of going to Israel(machon/yeshiva type programs) as is currently expected.

Liss said...

That's a really interesting idea (i.e. working in other diasporas) - I like it a lot! You could split the year in half, or even into thirds: some time working with a Jewish community outside of Israel, some time in Israel, and some time volunteering with a non-Jewish community in an underdeveloped country. (Or an underdeveloped area of a developed country - e.g. Indigenous communities in the NT, if they invited us to live with them.) I wonder if any of the Zionist youth movements would be up for that?!

P.S. With regards to 'dokait' - I was basically adopting that particular concept, not the entire Bundist ideology, if that's allowed… I call it “sensitive ideological appropriation”. (No, that’s not true. I just made that up, but I like it!) I don't think it's possible for me to be a Bundist while I'm living my bourgeois, middle-class life in Melbourne. (Which I actually like very much.)