Suggestions for connecting students to Israel

by: Yonah Goodman

1. “Live Broadcast”: Have a (live) phone conversation between someone who lives in Yesha (Judea and Samaria/Yehuda V’shomron) and a group of students. This could be a class or a small group, which wants to find out what is happening in Yesha, or a gathering as large as a school assembly. The required equipment is a phone line with a loudspeaker, attached to a general amplifying system (in the case of a general school assembly). Since people asked for someone who could be a go-between and successfully conduct a phone interview, I consulted with the head of the Local Council of Shomron. He located a woman who made aliyah from the U.S. to the Shomron a couple of years ago, and would be happy to help. Her name is Masha Nachman. Her phone number in Israel is 09-8341362. Her e-mail address is: elinachman@hotmail.com . It is necessary, of course, to coordinate the call in advance, to set up a time, to explain what the plan is etc. If you cannot locate her, the contact person on behalf of the Council in this matter is Baruch Lior. His phone number is: 09-8826488
2. Operation Phone Calls: Use the phonebook to get names of families in a Yesha settlement and divide up the job. Every person gets the name of a family and calls them that day. It doesn’t matter that there are language difficulties or that you don’t know the person you are calling. The fact that a person who lives in a secluded, distant settlement suddenly gets a phone call from another Jew in some far away country, who called to strengthenhim, is exceptionally moving. It projects to the settler that the suffering she is going through is not personal suffering, and that we are all encouraging her and are being encouraged by her. In my opinion, it seems right that at first all the homeroom teachers or Torah teachers in the school carry out this mission themselves. When they later relate the experience they had during the phone call to their students, it will help the students overcome their embarrassment and make the call themselves. The students should be prepared beforehand, the questions formulated together, so they include more than “Good for you” or “How’s it going?” and will also attempt to address value-oriented topics.
3. A Yesha Board: Put up a special bulletin board in which there will be different sections on Yesha, such as: news, a description of a specific settlement, a current, relevant picture etc. The responsibility for “refueling” the different sections of the wall newsletter should be placed on a group of students.
4. What’s Happening Out There?: For a defined period of time (for example a week devoted fully to the issue of Yesha) the first lesson every day and in every class will begin with a student’s review of the main news, preferably accompanied by maps. Alternately, the same could be done one day a week, for example, in the first hour of school, every Friday and then keep it going after that.
5. A Delegation: Send 2-3 representatives from the community to Israel for a week on a fact-finding mission. Half of the flight fare will be paid by the community and the other by the passengers themselves. The delegation will visit some of the settlements on the front line, talk with children, soldiers etc. The powerful effect of a live report through the phone or e-mail, by “our” community representatives, while they visit Israel on our behalf, cannot be imagined. When they return home, they will go to synagogues and clubs, community home meetings etc. The effect of what they say and the pictures they will bring back with them, because they are `one of us’, will be much stronger than the influence an Israeli representative will have. It seems like a complicated operation but it is much simpler than it appears to be and any settlement in Israel would be happy to host and care for these visitors during their stay.
6. A Youth Delegation: If the previous idea is carried out, it is highly advisable to add 2-3 11th and 12th grade students to the community delegation. Half of the funding for it will come from the school or contributions and the other half from the parents of the student passengers. When they come back, the students will go from one class to another with pictures (or slides). In my opinion, they will soon be invited to the other schools in the city. Once again, what they say will have a much stronger effect than what a representative from Israel would say. Note: this seems like a complicated operation, but we must not be intimidated by grandiose ideas. Sometimes it is precisely this type of ideas thatare accepted more enthusiastically. Initiative and a little chutzpa are what’s needed. (Besides, the worst that can happen, is that they won’t be accepted. But why give up in advance?) Furthermore, What do you think of a school delegation, to begin with, which would consist of 2-3 teachers and another 2-3 students?
7. Media Watch: It is no secret that the most important decisions in Israeli security policy are made while seriously considering world public opinion. Media image, in modern times, is apparently a major battleground. In the past, when the battle was fought solely in the fortified military posts, it was difficult for a person who lived at a distance to contribute to, and aid the overall war effort. Nowadays, however, when the media plays such a central role, anyone, from anywhere in the world, can help the cause. English speakers, who understand the “foreign” media reports and can respond to them, can be especially useful. Students should be made aware of the true necessity of making an effort in this area. In practice, it is suggested that the students be divided into two groups. The small, core group, which will monitor the media and be on the look-out for distorted and unfair reporting. As needed, they will themselves react or will involve the rest of the students in a writing campaign to a specific written or electronic form of media.
In order not to spread out too thinly, it is advisable not to try and take on the entire world media, but to focus on a limited and well-defined number of media channels. The result will be greater efficiency and visibility. I suggest choosing one form of local media, such as a city newspaper; as well as one form of national media, such as a television station or magazine, like Time or Newsweek. The reports should be monitored and a demand should be made for a balanced presentation of the issue. It should be explained to the students, prior to the activity, that we are not seeking positive bias toward Israel, but simply fairness. Reactions can take the form of `letters to the editor’, which will be published, or letters to the editorial staff expressing a clear position and protest.
8. A School Prayer Assembly. It is even suggested to think about instituting a one-time partial fast day, which would last, for example until 11:00 a.m. The names of all the students who undertook the partial fast upon themselves will be posted on the bulletin board. Students will write (to the school newspaper? the bulletin board?) and explain to their friends why they accepted the fast upon themselves; what they felt while it was going on etc.
9. A Public Assembly: organized by the school, to which parents and community members would be invited. It would include a survey of what is happening in Israel, a choirperformance, a chapter from Psalms (Tehillim), a live conversation with Israel, a short video with a few news items etc.
10. Adopting a bereaved or “injured” family. Every class or group of students will adopt a bereaved family, or a “wounded”one. The students will take responsibility for gathering the names. The simplest way is to scan the Jerusalem Post archives in the Internet, starting with Rosh Hashanah. After there is a list of names, go into the information service of Bezeq (Israel’s major phone company) at (144) and get the addresses. Effort should be made to make contact specifically with those who are not famous.
11. Adopting a Class via Tape Recording. In my humble opinion, people don’t like writing letters and the correspondence quickly ends. I suggest that the “adoption” take place by sending a tape cassette with a specified duration of time (for example – fifteen minutes, the other side won’t listen to more than that) together with a limited amount of photographs (for example, an album of 20 pictures, because the other side will not look at any more than that). The limits should be decided on in advance and applied to both sides (otherwise it is overdone, a one-time drawn out effort is made, the result is an album with 100 picturesor a two-hour tape, for which there really is no patience). The principle is simple: students who know that they are limited to 20 pictures, will begin to use sound educational judgement. What should we show? A picture of ourselves? Of the school? Should we emphasize our Zionistic identity and pose near the Israeli flag? What makes us special? The same process will take place in preparing a cassette (it doesn’t make sense to prepare a video because the system in Israel is different from the American one, but it can be considered while stipulating a time limit for the tape). In short, it would be a good idea to add a leader to every group, because the process may turn into a moving educational process.
12. E-mail. Create contact between classes through the electronic mail. One student would be in charge of checking the e-mail, bringing it to the attention of the class and discussing the desirable response with his friends. In order for the electric correspondence to be meaningful, the other side shouldbe asked questions and not just encouraged. The questions should touch on three circles: informational questions (Is it possible to travel on the roads?), questions about feelings (Are you scared?) and questions about ideology (Do you believe God will help? Do you hate the Arabs? Do you want peace?). These questions channel the dialogue and turn it into a meaningful conversation about values. Otherwise it remains on the level of chitchat and quickly dies out.
13. Chat: Theoretically, it is possible to agree upon a certain time and have a chat session. This is a little bit complicated, because the speed at which Israelis write English is not suitable for writing chat in English, but maybe it is worthwhile to try and overcome this obstacle.
14. Electronic `warfare’: The idea of monitoring the news and reacting to unfair reporting, can, at the same time be put into practice by a group of internet-fluent students. They would follow the above-described course of action with regard to Internet news broadcasts; they too would send reactions, participate in internet polls etc. A computerized, more militant group may search for anti-Semitic sites on the net, file complaints with B’nai Brith etc. For those who are interested, there are several sites whichspecialize in monitoring unfair media coverage and it’s possible to cooperate with them or pass information on to them: 1. www.honestreporting.net 2. www.adl.org 3. www.camera.org 4. www.memri.org
15. Public activity: Send letters to people in the American government and in the Israeli government.
16. A Support Rally or a street demonstration.
17. A One-time Special School Newspaper on the situation in Israel. It would include articles by students, testimonies on activities they ran,e-mail or letter-exchange documentation, the text of a phone conversation with a public and/or rabbinic personality in Israel etc.
18. Fund-raising for settlements in distress or for orphans, for aid funds for the injured or for any other relevant cause. The needs are immense and there is real need for financial aid. Just choose the goal that seems most worthwhile to you.
Work method: Personally, I would choose a few of the activities and allow the students to decide what they would like to participate in, according to their interests etc. One group could produce the newsletter, another would organize the fast day, a third would keep tabs on the media and so forth.
I would be really appreciative if you:
Send some additional ideas of your own, as well as short reports on what you did and how it came out.
My e-mail is: yonahg@NewMail.Net
All the best and good luck
Yonah Goodman