Yom Haatzmaut

  • 50 Minutes
  • Grades: 7-12
  • Lesson Plan
  • by: Moshe Abeles

Students examine Biblical and Talmudical texts that imply that the modern settlement of the Land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel were part of a divinely ordained plan to begin the redemption of the Jewish people.

Introduction

The purpose of this lesson is to examine numerous Biblical and Talmudic texts that imply that the modern settlement of the Land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel were part of a divinely ordained plan to begin the redemption of the Jewish people. This would mean that Yom Ha’atzmaut, the day the State of Israel was established, has major religious significance to the Jewish people. This lesson will try to show that it behooves us to offer praise and thanks God for the establishment of the State of Israel.

Some teachers may prefer to simply bring the sources on one source sheet instead of leaving space for the students to write their answers. Teachers should feel free to adapt the worksheet to suit their particular needs.The text selections in this lesson appear in English, as many computers are not Hebrew enabled. The Hebrew texts are available as an appendix at the end of the teacher’s guide for those teachers whose computers are Hebrew enabled.

 

Lesson objectives

Content:

The student will be able to:

1) Describe the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

2) Describe what the Jewish people are required to do to uphold their part of the covenant.

3) Describe the state of the Land of Israel when the Jews are in exile.

4) Describe the state of Israel when the Jews are inhabiting the land.

Skills

The student will be able to:

1) Analyze Biblical and Talmudic texts.

2) Compare Biblical and Talmudic texts to Jewish historical events.

Values

The student will:

1) Appreciate the place of the Land of Israel in Jewish history.

2) Value the era in which we live, perhaps the beginning of the redemption.

Procedure

Hand out worksheet and work through each question.

Section 1: Ownership of the Land

Suggested answer to Question 1

a) “…to you and your descendants (‘zera’)”. Some students may say that the Arabs (through Yishmael) are also descendants of Avraham, therefore, also have a legitimate Biblical claim to Eretz Yisrael. Avraham, in the same chapter, asks God the same question: “Avraham said to God: ‘If only Yishmael could live before you.’ God answered Avraham: ‘But Sarah your wife will bear for you a son. You will call him ‘Yitzchak’. I will establish My covenant with him and his descendants after him, as an eternal covenant.'” Bereshit 17:18-19 God clearly says that only Yitzchak’s descendants (as only he is the son of Sarah) qualify for this covenant. In the following verses (20-21), God goes on to promise that Yishmael is destined for greatness in other ways, but then reaffirms that the covenant applies to Yitzchak alone. Furthermore, when Sarah forces Yishmael to leave her home out of concern over his bad influence on Yitzchak, God tells Avraham to listen to Sarah because: “…only Yitzchak I have proclaimed as your descendant (zera)” (Bereshit 21:12).

b) “an everlasting covenant”, i.e. the Jewish people are the eternal inheritors of the Land of Israel.

Suggested Answer for Question 2

If God has promised that the Land of Israel is the Jewish people’s eternal inheritance, students may ask how it was possible that that the Jews have not actually possessed it for large portions of world history. This quote explains that while we remain the owners of the land, we can lose possession of it if we do not fulfill our part of the covenant, i.e. to follow the way of God. Nevertheless, exile can only be temporary, as the Jews remain the owners since the covenant is in fact, eternal. This is what happened as the Jews lost possession of the land around the year 70 CE. As a result, many peoples still dispute the Jewish people’s claim to the land.

Section 2: The Land in Exile

Suggested Answer for Question 3

a) This text selection prepares the groundwork for question 4, which shows that the Land of Israel remained relatively uninhabited until the Jews began returning to it from the late nineteenth century onward. Of course, there were people dwelling in the land, but only very few, and no inhabitants managed to establish an independent country there, making it their home. Concerning the jackals, point out that these animals are scavengers who search for food in ruins. When cities are inhabited, they are too frightened to enter. Therefore, seeing a jackal in a city would imply that it is uninhabited.

b) At first glance it seems that God is punishing the Jewish people by making their land desolate and uninhabitable. However, as Rashi points out, God is actually preserving the land for them, so that they can return to it later on.

Suggested Answer for Question 4

a) It is important to mention that Mark Twain was describing the land in the mid- 1800’s. The Jews began returning to it in the late 1800’s. From that point onward, the land began to bloom and become inhabited.

b) Obviously, this description implies that the Torah, written thousands of years earlier, was spot on in its prophecy.

Section 3: The People in Exile

Suggested answer to Question 5

a) “…God will then scatter you among the nations.” This question deals with the exile. Jews will be scattered to every country on earth. It would be a useful to ask the students to discuss their ancestry and to count how many countries they originate from. The Jewish Agency’s Aliya department also has a famous advertisement with photographs of Jews from many different countries and cultures. It would be a good idea to bring it to the class if you can.

b) The second quote deals with anti-Semitism. The nations of the world will hate us while we are in exile. c) The Jews will live and suffer a horrible existence. You may want to ask your students if they have ever experienced any anti-Semitism, or whether they feel that it exists. Obviously, anti-Semitism is not as overt and obvious as it once was. This is very good. Nevertheless, you may want to ask your students to research by asking their grandparents, what anti-Semitism was like before the State of Israel was established.

Suggested Answer for Question 6

The purpose of this question is to show that while anti-Semitism may not be as rampant as it once was, it is something that Jews have experienced since the first day the exile began. Be careful not to get too sidetracked when discussing anti-Semitism.

Section 4: The Return of the Jews

Suggested Answer for Question 7

a) The question states: “What do you think…?” and therefore any answer will do. Peshat-wise, it is merely using descriptive language to explain that however far Jews are from Eretz Yisrael, they will return. Suggest that perhaps it refers to Jews who have been totally cut off from their people or from Judaism, who will still find a way home.

b) Once again it is a: “Do you think” question. Point out that Jews from almost every country under the sun have made Aliya to Israel. Look at the Aliya figures in the appendix section of this guide. You may also want to ask the students to think about why a Jew whose ancestors have not lived in Israel for 2,000 years, would want to return there because it is his home. Do Chinese or African Americans feel a strong desire to return to their ancestral home after even two generations? Do they feel a strong connection? Can any American even identify themselves as a descendant of the original pilgrims who came on the Mayflower, never mind whether they feel any connection at all to their original home in Europe? How come the Jews can?

Suggested Answer for Question 8

The purpose of this question is to tie this prophecy with today’s reality, where the land is blooming. Ask the students who have visited Israel to say whether their experiences of Israel matched Mark Twains’ or the Torah’s exilic description or Yechezkel’s description here. You may want to bring in Israeli produce into the classroom and give everyone a taste. There seems to be a fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies.

Suggested Answer for Question 9

This question begins to deal whether we are in the Messianic Age. Both Rabbi Abba’s and Rabbi Chiya Ruba’s comments suggests that our generation might be experiencing the beginning of the redemption. While there are many texts that support the theory that what we are experiencing is the Messianic Era, you may want to discuss whether modern Zionism’s successes have actually been the work of God. After all, most of Zionism’s founders and leaders were non-believers and their achievements were those of hard working human beings. You will need to discuss how Judaism sees God’s hand in the simplest to the most complicated of things—the growing of a blade of grass, the birth of a child, and in the technological progress of Man. Why should they not see God’s hand in this long and complicated process that led to the establishment of the State of Israel?

Suggested Answer for Question 10

Explain the meaning of the term, i.e. “the beginnings of the budding of our redemption”. Note how the Rabbinate used an agricultural term, perhaps to hint at the agricultural blooming of the land. This is a very cautious phrase. The Rabbinate has not declared the State of Israel to be “our redemption” and nor have they even called it the “beginning of our redemption”. It is merely the beginning of the beginning. This also suggests that if we are not careful, it can all go wrong; after all, the threat in the Shema, which we read twice a day, still applies. Nevertheless, even though the day to day running of the State of Israel is not exactly what we have been dreaming about for 2,000 years, it is fair to say that Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael has made major strides with almost 40% of world Jewry living in Israel. Even though the redemption is not yet complete, major prophecies have come true. It is inconceivable that a believing Jew would ignore God’s role in its establishment and not be grateful to Him for it. Surely, we must be grateful to God for what we have and give Him praise for what He has given us.

Conclusion

This lesson has tried to show that the creation of the State of Israel was a divine act and that the state itself is a gift from God. There are many other issues to discuss such as: a) Ahavat Ha’Aretz– the love of Eretz Yisrael b) The opposition of many rabbinical leaders to Zionism c) The fact that the State of Israel is a secular country d) Aliya We will try to deal with these issues in future lessons.

 

Appendices

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