PROGRAMMING IDEAS FOR YOM HA’AZMA’UT
Prepared by David Tesler for The AVI CHAI Foundation
Table of Contents
To utilize texts to learn about Israel in an interactive classroom environment.
The distribution of various texts to encourage and stimulate conversation about Israel via textual analysis and guided classroom discussion.
All texts should be printed (ideally in both Hebrew and English) and handed out to each student. Individual students could be chosen to each read a paragraph of the text aloud. The students should read once through the text themselves and the text should then be read aloud by members of the class. After the second reading is completed, each student will have read the text at least once, and actively involved students will have heard it twice, thus ensuring a greater degree of learning assimilation prior to beginning the classroom discussion.
Ideally, the teacher should sit down with the text and compose a list of questions that are directed to his or her target audience. There are two basic types of questions that should be utilized. The first type of question is meant to encourage the students to understand the plain meaning of the text. The second question type is meant to lead the student to look beyond the text and think about the context and implication of the text. The following list of questions and talking points can be used to trigger meaningful classroom discussion and debate.
Three different text studies outlined below focus upon the political, social and religious nature of the State of Israel and our relation, as American Jews, to the State of Israel. Choose from the ideas listed below:
1. Israeli Declaration of Independence.
2. Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel and the United States of America.
3. National Anthem of the State of Israel – “HaTikva”
Each text study should conclude with a meaningful exercise which will conclude the program in a creative and emotionally evocative manner. Suggestions of possible program conclusions are included in each text study.
TEXT STUDY #1 - The Israeli Declaration of Independence
Introduction and Sources:
The purpose of this exercise is to gain a deep appreciation and substantive understanding of Israel’s Declaration of Independence (“Declaration”). This text study, depending on the level of the student’s language proficiency, could utilize either the original Hebrew version of the Declaration (see http://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/heb/megilat.htm) or its English translation (see http://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/eng/megilat_eng.htm).
Distribute a copy of the Declaration to the students and provide them with five minutes to read the document themselves. Then choose different students to read the Declaration aloud before beginning the discussion.
Guided Discussion Questions:
The following questions and talking points are merely suggested triggers for your discussion and should be modified accordingly to appeal to the target audience:
1. What is the purpose of the first two paragraphs of the Declaration? Why did the Declaration begin with these paragraphs? If you were the author of the Declaration, would you have begun the Declaration any differently? If so, how?
· These sections address the historical background of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, a point the authors wanted clearly stated at the start. Discuss why history is important to the Jewish claim to the land.
2. What was the author’s intent in making reference to the pioneers’ efforts in paragraph #3 of the Declaration?
· The people of Israel do not just have a historical right to the land, but based upon the pioneer’s (then) current efforts, the people have a proprietary right as well.
3. What is the importance of the international legitimacy that paragraph #5 of the Declaration seems to allude to? In what ways does the State of Israel still act to protect and bolster its international legitimacy? What is the importance of the UN to Israel?
4. Why is the Holocaust mentioned? Was the reference to the Holocaust necessary? How might this relate to the idea of international legitimacy just discussed? Were the Jews seeking pity? Mercy? Appealing to the guilty consciousnesses of the world? What other reasons could you think of for the inclusion of the Holocaust within the Declaration?
5. What does the author(s) mean to convey in reference to “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their sovereign State”? What is a “natural right”? Why is this deemed to be a natural right? Who gave us this right? If every “right” needs an enforcer, who serves as the enforcer to the Jewish people’s “natural right”?
6. Why is God not mentioned in the Declaration? How is the reference to God in the original Hebrew different than in its English translation? Discuss the debate as to if, and how, God would be referenced within the Declaration.
· A compromise was reached where the words “Rock of Israel” and Redeemer would be used without direct reference to God.
· Discuss how this debate previewed the future of religion in the public square.
7. What audience was/is the Declaration aimed at? The World? Israelis? All Jews?
8. What is the difference between a Jewish State and the State of the Jews? To which concept does the Declaration speak?
9. Why are there references to both the Land of Israel and the State of Israel in the Declaration?
10. To whom are “appeals” made in the last paragraphs of the Declaration? Why? Were these “appeals” answered?
11. What are the three principles stated in the Declaration upon which the State of Israel is founded?
12. If you were writing the Declaration, what other concepts would you include?
13. Where in the Declaration is there commitment to democratic principles? How might this conflict with the concept of Israel as a Jewish State?
14. Has the State of Israel been faithful to the goals and dreams set forth in the Declaration?
For the advanced class, a comparison between the United States Declaration of Independence (see http://www.law.emory.edu/FEDERAL/independ/declar.html) and the Israeli Declaration would be a fascinating exercise. The following questions could be posed to the class:
1. What are the similarities and contrasts between the U.S. and Israeli Declarations? Find three similarities and three differences between the two declarations?
2. Which Declaration appears to be more “religious”? Why? How many ways does the United States Declaration refer to God?
3. Both declarations speak of laws of nature and natural rights? What does that mean? What concept is Israel and America both founded upon?
4. How does each Declaration justify the birth of its nation?
At the end of the discussion, the audio clip of David Ben Gurion (available on the same web site listed above) reading the Declaration should be played. It is an emotional historical moment that will be all the more meaningful after the students better understand the nature of the document.
TEXT STUDY #2 - Praying for the Welfare of the State of Israel and the United States of America
Introduction and Sources:
The purpose of this exercise is to gain a deep appreciation and substantive understanding of the prayers for the Welfare of (i) The State of Israel (www.internationalwallofprayer.org/IWOP-014-Prayer-for-the-Welfare-of-the-State-of-Israel.html), and (ii) The United States of America (www.ou.org/resources/Prayergovt.htm). Special attention should be paid to the background of these prayers and to their conceptual and textual underpinnings. Additional sources to be handed out to the students are (a) the second mishna of the third perek of Pirkei Avot: "Rabbi Chanina the deputy High Priest said, pray for the welfare of the government (lit, monarchy), for if not for its fear, a person would swallow his fellow live" and (b) the following selection from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Horeb (Mitzvoth Chapter 96): Loyalty and praying for the welfare of the state “is an unconditional duty and not dependent upon whether the State is kindly intentioned towards you or is harsh. Even should they deny your rights to be a human being … you shall not neglect your duty”
Hand out a copy of the sources in English and Hebrew to each student and give them five minutes to read the sources. Then choose different students to read each source aloud.
Guided Discussion Questions:
The following questions and talking points are merely suggested triggers for your discussion and should be modified accordingly to appeal to the target audience:
The Prayer for America
1. Why do we recite the prayer for the welfare of the United States of America?
· Patriotism/Loyalty/Love for country.
· There is a concept within Jewish Law, based upon a pasuk in Yirmiyahu (29:7) and a Mishna in Pirkei Avot, that one must always pray for the welfare of the State in which one resides.
2. Is the primary intent of the prayer to pray for the welfare of the people or its leaders? Should it matter if there is pro-Israel/Jewish candidate in office?
3. How might this prayer and its underlying concept change if the government being prayed for is a democracy rather than a monarchy?
· It might include references to the people, who are the ultimate source of authority in a democracy.
4. Should this prayer be uttered if living in a country that is intolerant towards the Jews? How about in a country that actively seeks to eradicate its Jews? How about in a country that seeks to prevent Jews from freely practicing their religion?
5. Do you agree with Rabbi Hirsch? Why do you think he held such a position?
6. The first paragraph contains certain descriptions of God’s attributes – Why do you think these attributes were chosen? How do they fit into the context of this prayer?
7. What exactly are we praying for in the second paragraph?
· Seemingly two distinct wishes.
8. Are we praying for the Jewish people’s welfare or for the welfare of the Nation as a whole?
9. When the prayer states that “may Judah be saved, and may Israel dwell securely, and may the Redeemer come to Zion,” what did the author mean? Who is Judah? Is Israel referring to the Jews in the Diaspora or the Jews in Israel? Is praying for the Redeemer to come to Zion, a prayer that we will be redeemed from the land that we are praying for and brought to Israel?
· This is a confusing phrase that is open to many interpretations. Have the students explore the different meanings.
10. What happened to Rabbi Chanina? How does the answer to this question affect the way in which you view his statement in the second mishna in Pirkei Avot?
· The Roman authorities killed Rabbi Chanina.
The Prayer for Israel
1. What does the prayer mean when it says, “which marks the dawn of our deliverance”? What are the implications of such a phrase?
· Explain to the students the debate over whether the establishment of the State marks the beginning of the Messianic Era and how certain congregations either omit this phrase or change the phrase to read, “That it should be the dawn of our deliverance”.
2. What does the text mean when it refers to “establish[ing] peace in the land?” How inclusive should the word “inhabitants” be interpreted?
3. Is it sensible to pray for God to remember the Jews of the Diaspora in a prayer meant for the State of Israel? Or is that line uttered merely as a utilitarian wish that they are remembered solely to bring such Jews to Israel? What does the answer to that question mean about the way Israelis may view Jews in the Diaspora?
4. What is the connection between observing all the precepts of the Torah and welfare for the people of Israel?
· This is based on a common Biblical theme (an example of which is found in Vayikra 26) which states that the privilege of inhabiting and benefiting from the land of Israel is dependent upon the people’s faithful observance of the precepts of the Torah.
5. Discuss the meaning of the universalistic phrase “Shine forth in thy glorious majesty over thy world.”
· This prayer vacillates between the universalistic and the particularistic – discuss these tensions inherent in this prayer.
6. Other than the obvious, in what ways do the prayers for the State of Israel and the prayer for the welfare of the United States of America differ from another? How are they similar?
At the end of the discussion, you might want to reference an article, written by Rabbi Barry Gelman, former assistant Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which discusses the prayer for the State of Israel (www.ou.org/torah/weiss/gelman1.html). Additionally, it would be interesting to have the students draft their own prayers for the United States of America and the State of Israel, either personal prayers or alternatives to the public prayer read in the synagogue.
TEXT STUDY #3 - National Anthem of the State of Israel
Introduction and Sources:
The purpose of this exercise is to gain a deep appreciation and substantive understanding of the National Anthem for the State of Israel (“HaTikva”). HaTikva can be found in Hebrew with an English translation and transliteration at www.stateofisrael.com/anthem. The first draft of HaTikva, a nine-stanza poem including a refrain, entitled Tikvatenu, can be accessed at www.bnaimoshe.org/tikvatenu.htm. Shir HaMa’alot can be found in Hebrew and English in most siddurim and birchonim.
Distribute a copy of HaTikva and provide the students with one minute to read HaTikva. Then choose one student to read HaTikva aloud. Begin discussion utilizing the initial guided discussion questions. Then introduce the historical background to HaTikva together with the text of Tikvatenu and Shir ha’Maalot to be followed by the remaining guided discussion questions.
Historical Background of HaTikva
Naftali Hertz Imbar, the attributed composer of HaTikva, was born in 1865 in the city of Zloczew in Galicia. The nine-stanza poem “Tikvatenu,” whose first two stanzas became the national anthem “HaTikva,” was written in 1878 and has undergone many changes over the years as a result of the dispute surrounding choosing a national anthem. The key line of the poem seemingly comes from the prophet Yehezkel, in his vision of the dry bones: "And God said to me: O mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone."
The inspiration of the poem “Tikvatenu” is said to have been the founding of the city of Petach Tikva. The themes of “Tikvatenu” were possibly influenced by Polish patriot songs. The Polish song, “Poland is not yet lost, while we still live” became the Polish national anthem with the birth of the republic between the two world wars. Although the source of the melody is not clear, there have been many conjectures as to its origin: an ancient Italian song, a Russian-Slavic song, a Polish tune, and others. It does appear that Samuel Cohen, who immigrated to Israel in 1888, is the one who adapted the text of HaTikva to the Romanian folk melody “The Wagon and the Oxen” by G. Popovitz.
The wording went through a series of changes over the years, reflecting shifts in nationalistic ideas and customs. The words “Where David once lived” were exchanged for “Zion and Jerusalem” in the chorus. The poem was later cut to two verses and the chorus. Another important textual change was the call to be “a free nation in our land” and not just to “live in the land of our fathers.” The melody was also changed to fit the cadence and syllable stress of the new version. These changes can be traced through the various printed editions of the work, such as the 1909 version from the Hebrew Publishing Company.
The first competition for the national anthem was announced in Die Welt, a German newspaper, in 1898. The Fourth Zionist Congress announced another competition in the year 1900, but no song was officially chosen. In 1901, one of the sessions of the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, ended with the singing of HaTikva, which was still then called Tikvatenu. It was not until 1905 that the entire HaTikva was sung by all the delegates present at the Seventh Zionist Congress. HaTikva was not officially adopted until the 18th Zionist Conference in 1933, the same year that Adolf Hitler rose to power.
During the pre-state era it was sung in Palestine as a way of identifying with the Zionist movement and was often played on the underground radio during the British Mandate. In Europe it was adopted by Jewish partisans and even by Orthodox Jewish families, who used its melody for the singing of Shir ha’Maalot at the Sabbath dinner table. While HaTikvah was sung at the ceremony marking Israel's Declaration of Independence and is played at all Israeli state functions, it has never, in part because of religious objections to its secular nature, been formally adopted by the Knesset as Israel's national anthem.
Contemporary criticisms voiced against HaTikvah are numerous:
1. A non-native Hebrew speaker wrote it, so the language is archaic and does not resemble the living language of the land of Israel.
2. It was written in Ashkenazi syntax, again not the way modern Hebrew is spoken, and so the rhythm and the accent on the syllables are off. It is also in a minor key, representing the plaintive wail of the Eastern European Diaspora, not the rejoicing of the ingathering of the exiles, and certainly not representative of the experience of more than half of Israel's Jewish citizens that originate from Sephardic or Arabic lands.
3. The music of HaTikvah is not authentically Jewish music; it was consciously borrowed from a foreign song.
4. There is no mention of God within HaTikva.
Some critics have gone so far as to recommend replacing HaTikvah with Naomi Shemer's very popular “Jerusalem of Gold”, a song identified with the Six Day War and the recapture of Jerusalem. It was written in Israel by a native Hebrew speaker, and is easy to sing. Those arguing in favor of the song’s adoption, approve of the implicit message the song would send the world concerning the ultimate status of Jerusalem.
Imber died in 1909 in New York and his remains were re-interred at the Mt. Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem in 1953.
One of the other considerations for the Zionist National Anthem was Shir HaMa’alot (Psalm 126), which is the Psalm typically, recited as a prelude to Birkat HaMazon on Shabbat and Chagim. In 1979 when Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt on the White House lawn, he read aloud the complete Shir HaMa’alot in Hebrew.
Guided Discussion Questions
The following questions and talking points are merely suggested triggers for your discussion and should be modified accordingly to appeal to the target audience:
Initial Guided Questions
1. What is your opinion of HaTikva? What do you like best about it? What do you like least?
2. When do you think it was written? With what perspective do you think HaTikva was written? Who was its audience? What does “With eyes turned toward the East” mean? What kind of audience bias does that line reflect?
· The song was written with the perspective of European Jewry.
3. Does HaTikva represent a hope or a reality?
4. Is HaTikva an outdated song?
5. Does Jerusalem warrant special mention in such a small anthem? If so, why?
Subsequent Guided Questions
1. Since HaTikva was written prior to the establishment of the State, do you believe that its content is somehow outdated? Does it express a hope or a reality?
2. How should those living in the Diaspora relate to HaTikva? Should a national anthem even be directed to those living outside the country’s borders?
3. With a greater understanding of the background surrounding HaTikva, do you feel differently about HaTikva than you did before? If so, How?
4. What is your opinion of the full poem “Tikvatenu”? Do you think HaTikva is a faithful outgrowth or summation of its original source? What ideas from Tikvatenu have been faithfully transferred to HaTikva? Which concepts from Tikvatenu failed to make their entry into HaTikva?
5. Do you think that Shir HaMa’alot (the “Shir”) would have made a better anthem? Do you think that the Shir could have been accepted as a national anthem? What are the primary ideas expressed by the Shir?
6. Compare and contrast the ideas expressed in the Shir to those in HaTikva? What does each have to say about dreams and hopes?
7. What do you think should be the place of God within a national anthem? Since many people in Israel do not want God explicitly mentioned in HaTikva, what do you think are reasonable compromises?
8. If you had your choice of HaTikva, Tikvatenu or the Shir, which one would you choose as the national anthem?
At the end of the discussion, you can play an audio clip of HaTikva and/or have the class stand up and recite HaTikva. The recitation of HaTikva should be more meaningful once the students better understand the history and meaning of the words. Alternatively, you could have the students, either individually or as a class, compose their own anthem. Distribute the National Anthem of the United States of America and have the students compare and contrast the two anthems.
Goal: To better understand (i) the identity and character of great Zionist leaders, or (ii) the geography of the land of Israel through an interactive station game.
Method: A station game involves setting up many “stations” throughout the school premises, at which different activities revolving around a unified educational theme or objective take place. Each class (or smaller groups if necessary) should move from station to station, remaining at each station for a specified period of time (usually between 10-20 minutes). In this particular station game, the purpose of the game is to teach the students about (i) the identity, character and historical context of great Zionist leaders, or (ii) the geography and great cities of the Land of Israel. Ideally, each station should have a fun or “shtiky” element that allows the students to have fun thus better internalizing the educational message of the station. It is critical to have a teacher or older student at each station.
A. Great Zionist Leaders:
A one-page biography of each leader should be presented at each station and read aloud by the students. Additionally, the person manning the station could dress up as the figure represented at his or her station. The following station ideas are merely suggestions of possible great Zionist leaders that can be utilized and of activities that can be implemented at each station:
a. Selections from Herzl’s famous play “Der Judenstaat-The Jewish State” or “Altneuland- The Old New Land” could be read aloud. Excerpts from the play can be found at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Zionism/herzlex.html.
b. A skit reenacting the Dreyfus affair.
c. A debate about Uganda as a possible refuge/homeland for the Jewish people in place of the Land of Israel.
d. Take pictures of the students reenacting Herzl’s famous pose in Basil Switzerland.
2. Ze’ev Jabotinsky
a. Selections from The Political and Social Philosophy of Ze'ev Jabotinsky - Selected Writings could be read aloud. Information on Jabotinsky may be found at http://www.jabotinsky.org/jabhom_e.htm.
b. A skit reenacting his famous pre-war speech in Warsaw begging Polish Jewry to make aliyah.
c. A debate about the logic of founding the British-sponsored Jewish Legion to fight in then-Palestine in the First World War.
3. Hannah Senesh
a. Selections from Her Life & Diary could be read aloud. Information on Senesh may be found at http://www.hannahsenesh.org.il/documents/lifeeng.html.
b. Ask the students whether, like Hannah, they could ever contemplate going on a life threatening intelligence mission for the Jewish People? Fortunately, such a mind set remains distant for our students, but it would be interesting to have them contemplate the question.
c. When Hannah first came to Israel she wrote “To die…so young to die…no, no, not I. I love the warm sunny skies, Lights, songs, shining eyes, I want no war, no battle cry – No, no … Not I.” Hannah also wrote “I don’t know whether I’ve already mentioned that I’ve become a Zionist … One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that is one is needed in the world”. Discuss these two quotes with the students. Do they reflect two different mindsets? Does it provide us insight into a heroine?
4. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook
a. Selections from “Orot” could be read aloud. Information on Kook and his Orot may be found at http://www.orot.com/lights.html.
b. Discuss the following phrase integral to the thought of Rav Kook: "I love everybody. It is impossible for me not to love all people, all nations. With all the depth of my being, I desire to see them grow toward beauty, toward perfection. My love for the Jewish people is with more ardor, more depth. But my inner desire reaches out with a mighty love toward all. There is veritably no need for me to force this feeling of love. It flows directly from the holy depth of wisdom, from the divine soul.”
c. Discuss how Rabbi Kook fought for reconciliation between the Zionists and the religious traditionalists. His legal rulings tried to accommodate the needs of the struggling and economically fragile Zionist settlements; e.g., by permitting agriculture during the Sabbatical year through a farfetched legal fiction.
5. David Ben-Gurion
a. Provide an audio clip of Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence.
b. Read portions of his many books and his autobiography aloud.
c. Discuss the fact that during World War II, Ben Gurion’s strategy was to fight the British restrictions on Jewish immigration and settlement even though Britain was fighting Nazi Germany. This position is reflected in his statement that the Zionists "would fight the war as if there was no White Paper and fight the White Paper as if there was no war." Was this position sensible?
6. Golda Meir
a. Read portions of her autobiography aloud. Information on Golda Meir can be found at http://www.uwm.edu/Library/arch/golda/index.htm.
b. Golda Meir emigrated with her family from Kiev, Russia to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1906. There, she graduated from teachers' college and taught in the public schools before making aliyah. Discuss Golda Meir’s trailblazing life as an oleh, American, and first (and only) female prime minister of Israel.
c. Compare and contrast Golda Meir with other great female Jewish leaders (Devorah, Ester, Yehudit etc.).
d. Golda Meir once famously said “I could forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but I cannot forgive them for turning our children into killers.” Ask the students for their reactions to this statement.
7. Menachem Begin
a. Read portions of his autobiography aloud. Information on Begin can be found at http://www.ou.org/chagim/yomhaatzmauth/begin.html.
b. Discuss and debate Begin’s position regarding receiving Holocaust reparations from the Germans. Begin was so opposed to receiving reparations that he led a rally that ultimately stormed the Knesset, ending in his temporary suspension from the Knesset.
c. Show pictures with Sadat and Begin on the White House Lawn next to pictures of Arafat and Rabin on the same lawn. Compare and contrast the historical contexts.
8. Yitzchak Rabin
a. Discuss the importance of the controversial Altelana incident (of which Rabin played a major role) in the history of the State of Israel.
b. Read portions of his autobiography aloud. Information on Rabin can be found at www.rabin.org.
c. Discuss his assassination and the political climate of the State that led to this historic catastrophe.
B. Great Cities in the Land of Israel:
A one-page description of the city, with a map of Israel pinpointing the city in question, could be distributed to the students at each station.
a. A skit of Avraham buying the ma’arat hamachpela could be re-enacted. The price haggling could be mimicked culminating in the signing of a “contract for purchase.”
b. A discussion about whether or not Israel should turn the city over to the Palestinian Authority (as Israel did under Netanyahu) could be conducted.
2. Beit Lechem
a. The song about Rochel weeping over her children could be taught and sung.
b. Israel’s siege of the Church of the Nativity raises some very interesting discussion points about how Israel should relate to Christian and Muslim religious sites. The Beit Lechem station would be an ideal place to discuss this issue.
a. A visit to the Kotel could be reenacted. Students could write notes containing their wishes and dreams that would be “placed” within the cracks of the kotel.
b. The song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav could be taught and sung.
a. Conduct a discussion as to whether the capital of Israel should be in Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem, and all the inherent implications of each option.
b. Yaffo was an important city for each and every conquering party. Discuss all the major conquerors of the State of Israel (Caananite, Jewish, Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Christian, Muslim, Israeli) and the effect that each had on the Land of Israel.
a. Haifa is reputed to have excellent Israeli Arab/Israeli relations. Discuss some of the inherent tensions involved within this relationship.
b. The Carmel is the winemaking capital of Israel. Set up a wine tasting [read: grape juice] session, with the serving of cheese optional.
At the end of the event, all the students would be gathered together (students could be gathered together as a school or in separate classes) and discuss the activity. Teachers should prepare a list of guided discussion questions. Examples of such questions are: Which of these Zionist leaders have you heard of before? What other Zionist leaders have you familiar with? Which Zionist leaders could you most relate to? Why? What qualifies someone as a “great Zionist leader”? What is your favorite city of Israel? What unique aspect of the Land of Israel does each city embody? If you would make aliyah, which city would you want to live in?
Different variations of the above station game could be added or incorporated into the program. For example (i) the great Zionist leaders could remain nameless and it would be up to the students to guess their identity from a larger list of potential great Zionist leaders based upon the content imparted to them at each station or (ii) superimpose the map of the school unto the map of the State of Israel and have the students learn the location of the stations (and other Israeli cities along the way) based upon their placement within the map of the school.
III. ISRAEL TODAY
Goal: To provide students with a basic understanding of the Israeli political system.
Method: Ideally, to best achieve this goal, students would spend the whole academic year learning and exploring the Israeli political system. The programs suggested below are stand-alone programs, suggested as an introduction to the Israeli political system.
Divide the class into 6-8 groups depending on how many parties (or coalition of parties) you think it prudent to discuss (For example, Likud, Labor, Shinuy, Shas/Agudah, Mafdal, Arab bloc, ha’Ichud and appoint a “party leader” that will explain and then represent their party to the class and within the makeshift Knesset. If the students are unable to conduct such research themselves, the teacher should prepare a one-page source sheet on the Knesset and for each of the major political parties. The following are ideal sources to learn about the Knesset and about Israeli political parties:
Knesset - The Knesset home page (http://www.knesset.gov.il/main/eng/home.asp) provides a wealth of information about the Knesset, and would be an excellent place to start learning about the Knesset, its history, how it works, the current composition of the Knesset, a visual tour of the Knesset and even see the Knesset live.
Israeli Political Parties - The following web sites provide information about Israel’s political parties. An excellent description of each political party can be found at http://www.wujs.org.il/activist/israel/politics.shtml and a web site that provides links to the web sites of the Israeli political parties can be found at http://www.politicalresources.net/israel.htm. A good compact analysis of the Israeli political spectrum can be found at http://hillel.myjewishlearning.com/history_community/Israel/Israeli_Politics/IsraeliElectoralSystem/IsraeliPoliticalParties.htm.
Some of the following hot-button issues will be the focus of student debate in the activity described below.
1. The Peace Process – Should the government continue negotiating with Arafat and his PLO? If so, how fast should these negotiations proceed? Answers to this broad question span the political spectrum making this an ideal issue to utilize in the classroom. Additional information can be found at http://www.ict.org.il/ and http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html.
2. Protection and Funding of Settlements – Should the settlements be dismantled? Should they be allowed to stay within autonomous Palestinian rule? Should they remain under Israeli sovereignty? The advantage of this issue is that it relates to the Peace Process, but because it is narrower in scope it will allow the students to wrap their hands around the topic. Additional information can be found at http://www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0dgj0 and www.adl.org/Israel/final_status/settlements_1.asp.
3. The Religious/Secular Divide – Should buses run on Shabbat? Should movie theatres and cafes be allowed to operate? Should marrying with an Orthodox rabbi be the only option? Should the State support yeshivot? This is an interesting topic and ideal for those not wanting to discuss the peace process. Additionally, the students already have a sufficient understanding of religion that will allow them to have a more informed discussion with less preparation. Additional information can be found at http://www.mepc.org/public_asp/journal_vol6/9906_sandler.asp.
4. The Protection, Funding and Loyalty of Israeli Arabs – Israeli Arabs do not serve in the military and their elected Knesset leaders are hostile to the idea of an Israel as a Jewish State. At the same time Israel is a democracy for all its citizens. What should Israel’s attitude be towards the Israeli Arab community? Should it receive special funding? Do Israeli Arabs currently face discrimination? Additional information can be found at http://www.shalem.org.il/azure/14-schueftan.htm.
5. Funding of Haredi Yeshivot and Families and Army Deferments – Haredi men currently are able to obtain army deferments if they claim that Torah is their vocation. Should Haredi men continue to avail themselves of this right? Should the State allow them to? The issue is currently under review with both the Knesset and the Supreme Court of Israel. Haredi families also benefit from tax breaks for their large families typical of that community. Should the State bear the burden of their family size? Should this funding be allowed to continue? Additional information can be found at http://www.irac.org/index_e.asp.
Budgeting games, a version of the classic value clarification game, is an ideal way to learn about the Knesset and the political parties. The moderator should pick an annual budget, and depending on the age of the participants, create a number (between 4-8) of issues/causes/priorities between which the participants must allocate funds. The topics should utilize the "hot-button" issues outlined above. This could be done in several ways and in several stages.Some examples:
A. Initial Stage – Prior to learning about the political parties, students would debate among themselves (as a class or separated into groups) how they feel the money should be distributed based upon their opinions, current knowledge and value system.
B. Intermediate Stage - Once the students understand the political system, assign each student a party and have them represent the interests of “their party” according to "their party's" philosophy. (You could even call the students by the names of the party leaders so that they can begin to learn the important players).
C. Advanced Stage - Have the students then understand that even after one understands the positions of the various parties on all the "hot-button" issues, there are additional considerations (such as leverage, threatening to break the coalition, bringing down the government, no confidence votes, personal pride issues, fear of government falling, following party lines, relations with the U.S. government) which factor into all agreements and decisions in the Knesset.
2. Hot-Button Debate:
Have a makeshift Knesset debate about one of the hot-button issues outlined above. (Make sure that the students have enough information about the chosen topic so “their party’s” position vis-à-vis that topic will be easily known and understood. Each party through their representative should describe their party’s platform and their party’s position on the chosen topic, to the rest of the class. Each party should then hold an internal meeting to discuss how they are going to vote on the issue facing them. (Each group/party should also calculate, based upon other party’s presentations, how each party will vote). The teacher should then call for a vote, have the votes tallied and then hold a discussion about that issue and how it is likely to be decided within the confines of the real Knesset. A second vote could then be called where the students may vote their conscience rather than tow the party line. This program should be followed up by a discussion of the hot-button issue and a forum for questions about the Knesset and the Israeli political process.
The purpose of this activity is to have the students learn about the political parties through electioneering and sloganeering aimed at persuading their other classmates to join their party. Each group should receive their one page party platform and then work together as a party to create witty, substantive and persuasive reasons why the Israeli citizenry should support “their party” with a vote. Students could create commercials, print advertisements, anthems, songs and bumper stickers in an attempt to raise voter awareness, and ultimately receive the largest number of votes. At the end of the activity, after each party presents to the rest of the class, there should be a vote, in which the members of the class vote as individuals, not as representatives of their parties.
Actual party slogans could be utilized in one of two ways:
(a) The class could be presented with actual party slogans prior to the exercise to provide them with guidance in the creative process, or (b) after the students create their own slogans, show the class how each of the political parties encapsulated their ideology into a pithy phrase. Discussion and critique of each party’s slogan could follow.
Goal: To provide creative programming that teaches the students about Israeli geography, history and culture through activities that can be conducted within the confines of a classroom.
1. Israeli Trivia:
There are many ways to conduct a trivia game and the suggestions listed below are merely representative of the numerous ways to creatively integrate trivia into the classroom in a compelling fashion. One possible Internet source that contains 147 trivia questions on Israeli history, Israeli geography and Jerusalem can be found at http://www.j.co.il. There are many popular game shows and board games whose basic structure can be borrowed and tinkered with to create an exciting format for a classroom trivia game. Examples of games and board games that work well with Israeli trivia are: (i) Family Feud, (ii) Who Wants to be a Millionaire, (iii) Hollywood Squares, (iv) The Weakest Link, (v) $10,000 Pyramid, (vi) Trivial Pursuit, (vii) Outburst, (viii) Taboo and (ix) Pictionary.
2. Bumper Sticker Game:
Often times it is more interesting to learn about a given society by examining one aspect of its popular culture. The purpose of this activity is to learn about Israeli society by reading, understanding and discussing Israeli bumper stickers. 80 different Israeli bumper stickers can be found at http://www.jr.co.il/pictures/israel/bstickers/index.html. Many of these bumper stickers are witty and incisive and have an uncanny ability to condense a complicated position in a compact and pithy phrase. The teacher should pick a reasonable amount of bumper stickers from the aforementioned site and organize them around a theme or particular group of themes. The students could work together to translate and interpret the bumper stickers. The teacher should then moderate a discussion that would allow the students to learn about the underlying message conveyed by the bumper stickers and its connection to Israeli society, culture and politics. An article about the place of Israeli bumper stickers in Israeli society by Micha Halpern can be found at http://www.jewishsf.com/bk010504/comm1.shtml.
3. Picture Perfect:
A picture, as the old saying goes, is worth a thousand words. The purpose of this program is to use images to spark discussion about Israeli history and current events. Begin collecting provocative and evocative pictures from newspapers and the Internet. These images can either be of past historical moments or current events (although I would not necessarily mix the two in the same program). Examples of some historical images can be found at http://www.jr.co.il/pictures/israel/history/. More current pictures of Israel can be printed from the Internet at many different news agency sites. Collect a group of 20-25 pictures and delete any explanatory blurb attached to each picture. Have the students try to figure out what the image is and the context with which the picture taken. For example, I have passed out a picture of a Palestinian celebrating the signing of the Oslo accords by riding atop a car while waving a Palestinian flag. It was very interesting to hear students trying to figure out the context of the picture, and why they thought the Palestinian was celebrating. Have the students emote as much as possible, providing not just what they believe the picture to be, but what feelings are evoked from just looking at the picture. For example, a picture of Rabin and Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn is very evocative image by itself and will usually spark an interesting discussion with strong feelings. After each picture is discussed, the teacher could reveal the true context of the picture and discuss the implications of the student’s various guesses. The more interesting the group of pictures, the more interesting and successful the program.
4. Stamp Game:
Similar to the bumper sticker activity outlined above. This purpose of this activity is to learn about Israeli history, culture and society by examining Israeli postage stamps. A selection of Israeli stamps can be found ator . The subject matter of Israeli stamps are diverse and range from topics such as Rashi and the Vilna Gaon, gefilte fish, the Hebrew Alphabet, Theodore Herzl, Rechavam Zevi, the Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, the Avot, Purim, Yeshivot Hesder, the Third Aliyah, a shul in Budapest, Gush Etzion and Israeli technology. The range of these stamps is a testament to the richness and depth of the Israeli and Jewish cultural, political, religious and historical heritage. Print out these stamps (a color printout would be preferable) and assemble them in a handout. Use these stamps as a trigger to discuss both the content and meaning of each stamp, and how each stamp relates to the State of Israel. Create a list of guided discussion questions based on the stamps included in the handbook. Additional ideas for this program could involve the students (either individually or collectively) creating their own stamp for the State of Israel or assembling a list of suggested postage stamp subjects that could be sent in a formal letter from the class or school to the Israeli Postal Services.
To the greatest extent possible, students should perceive the presence of Israel permeating the school’s campus and environment.
To inject as many Israeli historical, cultural, linguistic and societal concepts, ideas and conventions into the daily school routine.
Choose from the following suggestions:
1. School Announcements: All school announcements should be conducted in Hebrew, or in both Hebrew and English. This should include announcements relating to classes, recesses, lunch, dismissal and special activities.
2. HaTikva: The day should begin with the reciting of HaTikva. For those students who do not know the words or the tune to HaTikva by heart, Yom Ha’atzma’ut represents an ideal time to learn both. Each student should receive sheets with the words to HaTikva in Hebrew and English, together with a transliteration and explanation of the song (see: www.us-israel.org/jsource/History/hatikva.html).
3. Kol Yisrael: This is the name of the Israeli Broadcasting Station news service, “The Voice of Israel” (see: http://www.israelradio.org complete with links to audio). The actual Kol Yisrael news can be pumped into classrooms in either Hebrew or English on the hour, reminiscent of the hourly broadcasts familiar to anyone who has visited Israel. For those schools that do not have the Internet capability to broadcast the station over the loudspeaker, a makeshift “Kol Yisrael” could be created whereby a teacher could mimic Kol Yisrael’s hourly updates on Israeli news and weather. Perhaps as an incentive for the students to carefully listen, contests could be announced in Hebrew (and English if necessary) whereby students could win prizes. For example, after a “Kol Yisrael” hourly update, a question such as “Name as many Israeli Prime Ministers as you can” could be submitted to each class with answers to be handed in at the end of recess or lunch.
4. Signs and Flags: To better effectuate a comprehensive atmospheric change, all major signs (such as exit, room, bathroom, lunchroom, recess, library) should be covered up and replaced with Hebrew signs (yetziah, chadar, sherutim, chadar ochel, chofesh, sifriyah). Endeavor to make the school appear as similar to an Israeli school as possible. Display Israeli flags prominently throughout the school.
5. Hebrew Language: To the extent possible, teachers and administration should only speak in Hebrew. Teachers unable to do so, if so inclined, could speak English with an Israeli accent or with slightly broken English.
6. Food, Lunch and Snacks: Food served in the school on Yom Ha’atzma’ut should either be culturally Israeli (such as falafel, shwarma, chips, Israeli salad, garinim and chumus), or composed of Israeli products (such as mitzli, sabra, bissli, bamba etc). Menus should be posted only in Hebrew. Additionally, a makolet or shekem could be established at the school that sold any of the above products at a profit (profits to go to charity), at cost or subsidized. As an added educational component, all products could be marked and sold in shekels, the only currency that would be accepted in the “store”. A bank, such as Bank Leumi (or black market) could be established at the school where U.S. dollars could be exchanged for makeshift Israeli shkalim. Students could then shop at the makolet or shekem and purchase Israeli products with their Israeli currency. This idea could be utilized throughout the school year, both as an educational device and as a way to help support the Israeli economy.
7. Sports and Activities: To further add to the “Israeli” nature of the day, Israeli sports could replace the usual sports played by students in gym or at recess. A soccer game between Beitar Jerusalem and Macabbi Tel Aviv could be arranged with scores kept in Hebrew.
8. Music: Since music is crucial to creating a distinctive atmosphere, Israeli music (both Jewish and secular) could be played over the loudspeaker throughout the day as often as practically possible.