There are 70 faces to Torah, the Talmud states. We say there are 70 faces to Israel, meaning that there is not one single way to think about Israel or to learn about Israel. We embrace a broad and inclusive approach to Israel education, offering multiple ways for educators to present and for students to connect with Israel.
Among the multitude of lenses through which students can approach Israel education, several of our schools found Peoplehood as one particularly useful lens. Among the aspects of Peoplehood that were meaningful foundations for an approach to Israel education included:
- The notion that Israel is the collective enterprise of the Jewish people and that even those who live in North America have a deep investment in and responsibility for Israel;
- A spirit of klal Israel (Jewish unity) that is pluralistic in that it supersedes religious, ideological, and other divisions;
- The multi-dimensional experience of Jewish belonging;
- Approaching the diaspora-Israel relationship as a partnership.
In that Israel education seeks to cultivate in the learner a personal engagement with Israel, it is not “neutral.” We believe that Israel engagement is integral to Jewish identity. Thus, Israel education is not the dispassionate study of a subject such as geometry or economics. At the same time, Israel education must be distinguished from advocacy. Israel education is about creating opportunities for the learner to build knowledge, understanding, and connection with Israel; it is not about training the student to master a set of political arguments. Schools must also be safe havens in which students can voice questions and concerns about Israel without fear of censure.
Israel education, as all Jewish education, must be “learner-centric” – meaning it must be oriented to the needs and interests of the learner. Thus, we seek to provide to educators the skills and tools to enable diverse learners to connect with Israel in diverse ways.
A multi-dimensional approach to Israel education involves classroom learning and informal experiences, including encounters with Israeli peers, travel to Israel, and using music, literature, and other forms of arts and culture as windows to understanding of Israeli society.
Israel education benefits from integration with Jewish education and, in day schools, with general studies as well.
Finally, effective Israel education depends upon proficient educators. We support communal efforts to provide the “scaffolding” necessary to support educators to provide high-quality Israel education.