Starting right after Passover, which marks the exodus and the journey of a people toward its promised land – Eretz Israel, there is a succession of commemorations and holidays marking another, more recent journey, building up to becoming a sovereign state – Medinat Israel. The “Yoms” (days), as many of us refer to them, are Yom Ha’shoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Ha’zikaron (Israel Memorial Day), Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
This year, Israel’s 69th birthday, also marks several significant anniversaries: 100 years to the Balfour Declaration (1917), a diplomatic foundation stone of the State of Israel; 70 years to the U.N. dramatic vote to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states (1947); and 50 years to the Six-Day War and the Reunification of Jerusalem (1967).
For those of us who were around during the Six-Day War it comes as somewhat of a shock to realize that around 80 percent of the current population of Israel was not yet born when it took place. They, their counterparts on the Palestinian side, and our own Jewish community members, the students and their parents, were all born into today’s reality. While some wars fade into relative obscurity, this one remains as relevant today as in 1967. Many authors, commentators and politicians refer to the last fifty years as the "seventh day" since the war's core issues continue to be disputed, unresolved and in the news. In short, it’s complicated...
The resources we chose to highlight reflect on some of these issues, and also on the many reasons to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day!
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Photojournalist David Rubinger (1924-2017)
Arguably the most famous image of the Six-Day War was shot by David Rubinger, the legendary Israeli photographer behind an iconic photo of Israeli paratroopers entering the Western Wall for the first time. Rubinger, who died recently at the age of 92, was awarded the Israel Prize for his works in 1997. Rubinger's photographs captured key moments in Israel's history and helped define its collective consciousness.
A Meeting Place of Sabra Poetry and Jewish Liturgy
A song for Yom Ha'zikaron
How do we remember on Remembrance Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers? Who and what shape collective memory? In Israel, somber songs take center stage on radio waves and in commemoration ceremonies. A dominant staple on every such occasion is the song “Bab el Wad” written by poet and former Palmahnik Haim Guri. The legendary song has always been associated with Zionism, heroism, independence and the image of the new Jew - the Israeli who fights for his country.
The song inspired one of the greatest paytanim (Mizrahi liturgical poets) of the 20th century, Rabbi David Buzaglo of Morocco, who came to Israel in the early 1960s. Rabbi Buzaglo wrote his own words to the well-known melody of Guri’s poem.
The piyyut "Binu Na Mordim" (Wise Up, O Rebels!) offers a different way to shape the memory of the past than is customary in the days of Israeli national memory. The piyyut tries to inspire us to shape our future by way of peace and prayer, with a strong connection to the sources. Rabbi Buzaglo designs a different memory and reflects a different Israeli identity. Reading the two songs together is a study in shaping the collective memory. Singing them together, which is more and more the case in recent years, creates an inclusive collective experience.
Conversation between Haim Guri and Meir Buzaglo (Rabbi David Buzaglo's son and a pioneer in bringing piyuttim to the mainstream)
Video from the musical "Mi Shehalam" ("He Who Dreamed") based on the last 10 years of the life of Yitzhak Rabin. Bab el Wad by Haim Guri sung by Harel Skaat
Bab el Wad
Binu Na Mordim (Wise Up, O Rebels!)
Wise Up, O Rebels!
R. David Buzaglo (Casablanca, 1950s)
Wise up, O battle-eager murderous rebels!
You must not stand against a people who intimately
Speak to the One who dwells in the heavens,
the Omnipotent, the Eternal,
in His shade they put their trust and safety.
Remember a passing day was made for creation
The angelic advocates of peace have cried loudly to God:
But man is quick to fight!
Therefore you (men) must call for peace,
Man, the crown of creation, has been created like a king,
so as to build the deserts, to plant the desolated places,
but he has ruined the fields ofplenty and turned citadels
and palaces to rubble.
Honest Jacob sought peace softly and gently,
Both with his brothers and with his opponents.
We were persecuted, strangled in days of hatred and fury,
but we have always pursued peace, we, his descendents.
The Tetragrammaton was erased in the Temple‘s
water and given to Sotah (woman defiled by jealousy)
to drink in order to prove her innocence
and bring peace between her and her husband.
Israel’s History and Society - Online University Courses
Open to all and free!
Where to find quality learning opportunities about Israel is a challenge for many educators. We are in luck! The Israel Institute in partnership with leading Israeli universities has launched two MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). These courses are offered through Coursera, an online platform housing courses created by accredited institutions of higher learning.
Read more about it
A History of Modern Israel: From an Idea to a State (Part 1)
These courses are frontal but pretty informative albeit the heavy Hebrew accents (look who’s talking...) and the sometimes inaccurate subtitles. Most are in English and some are in Hebrew with subtitles.
Jewish LearningWorks Israel Education Resources
Getting ready for Yom Ha’atzmaut?
Get in touch with Vavi Toran with any questions.
Here is a sample from a downloadable special Poster Tales lesson for Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim).
This 1968 poster marks twenty years to Israeli independence and the return to holy sites in Jerusalem following the Six-Day War. It was designed by the artist Kopel Gurwin as a Parochet (the ornamental curtain covering the front of the ark in the synagogue), in the center of which two lions form the base of a seven-branched candelabra. The depiction of the menorah is reminiscent of the description in Exodus (Shemot) 25 where the instruction for its construction is filled with terms borrowed from botany: it had stalks, bowls like almonds, bulbs and flowers. Red flowers, such as Anemones (kalaniyot) and Maccabees’ Blood (dam ha’makabim), symbolize fallen soldiers. The word Yerushalayim is spelled out in the flowers.
The menorah and the two supporting lions were adopted as the central theme for the official shield of the city of Jerusalem. The lion was the symbol for the tribe of Judah whose territory included Jerusalem. Here they represent the unification of the city, and perhaps the troops entering the old city through the Lions’ gate. The artistic medium is appliqué, for which this artist was famous.
Resources Related to the Six-Day War
Curricula and Lessons
Center for Israel Education new curriculum
The June 1967 War: How It Changed Jewish, Israeli and Middle Eastern History
Opinions and Ideas
Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903-1994) was an Israeli Jewish public intellectual, professor of biochemistry, organic chemistry and neurophysiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a polymath known for his outspoken opinions on Judaism, ethics, religion and politics.
In a 1987 interview he gave his opinion about the aftermath of the Six-Day War:
“The turning point of the 1967 Six-Day War was the seventh day. On that day we had to decide whether that war was a war of defense or a war of conquest. And we decided post facto that it was a war of conquest.” To Leibowitz, the years since have been characterized by "a long process of decline, internally and externally, exposing what was once seen as Israel's "brilliant victory" as "a historical disaster."
Resources for Yom Ha’atzmaut
Voices of Jerusalem - Video, Jerusalem municipality
The Burden and Responsibility of Freedom
“Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.”
A few weeks ago in Parashat Beshalach, we read about the exodus from Egypt. In this dramatic Torah portion the Israelites exit Egypt on their way to freedom. This is not a purely joyous moment for them. They leave with heavy hearts, concerned about their future and with a feeling of hopelessness. They question the very decision to leave and some would rather go back and be slaves than face the unknown. At the moment of truth the sea parts and they walk to safety. The long journey to freedom has begun.
We have been blessed through this foundational myth with the idea of freedom as an ultimate value. But at the same time there are both internal and external forces that work against it. The Torah portion tells us about the wish of the people to give up this newly found freedom. Their fear, uncertainty and longing for what they left behind, prepare them for the long way ahead. The journey to freedom is as important as freedom itself.
Most of us were born to freedom. We did not have to realize we were shackled, we did not have to take a long journey, we did not arrive at the metaphoric bank of the Jordan River in order to cross it to the Promised Land. Still, some of us have had “a certain Egypt” and overcame what we perceive as oppression or tyranny. And of course most of us are enslaved to something: career, bad habits, way of thinking, tablets and iPhones, fill in the blank... Either way we must never take the freedom and independence that we have for granted. We have a responsibility to protect it, to fight for it and to tell the story of the long journey toward it to our children and students this year. Especially this year!
“May we all be blessed this Pesach with the ability to feel yetziat mitzrayim, on the national level and on the personal level, so that we are redeemed from whatever confines us.”
- Jennie Rosenfeld, Towards Personal Redemption
We include a few resources that explore the Exodus from different national, communal and personal perspectives. Enjoy!
EXODUS - A MIDRASH SONG
by Etti Ankri (lyrics and music)
Etti Ankri is an Israeli singer-songwriter. She has performed in the United States and other countries. Ankri has been called a "rock genius" the "poet of Israeli spirituality," and "the contemporary voice of... Israel." Her midrash song about the Exodus from Egypt is full of the rhythms of her Mizrachic roots.
Lyrics in English
Translation by Robbie Gringras
From video: Makom-Israel Engagement Network
This is Jacob’s pain
Over little Joseph
Sown within us
Is senseless brotherly hatred
And sometimes it seems to me
When I am ready to give up
Pharaoh is my disorder
And I am sad for Egypt
And sometimes it seems to me
That we are still there
Walking towards the mountain
Begging for water
May it open up in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between –
All those that are walking
To leave in the exodus from Egypt
To arrive in the desert
Perhaps we’ll find some water there
On the way to the mountain
May it open in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between
All those who are weeping
And they are gaining on us
An army of cavalry
It is difficult for Moshe
The people have no faith in their hearts
The beach’s touch is calming
The sea gapes open its mouth
What if we return to Egypt?
Fear has no memory
We were builders of pyramids
Interpreters of dreams
We had nothing we could call our own
Only salt and tears
EVERY PERSON NEEDS TO HAVE A CERTAIN EGYPT
Poem by Israeli poet Amnon Ribak
The Exodus as a metaphor for dealing with hardship and resulting in personal growth.
The poem suggests that from a crisis, from the abyss and from despair, a person can find his/her inner Moses, and take themselves out of their “certain Egypt” on a journey of personal redemption.
to redeem themselves from it, from the
house of slavery,
to go out in the middle of the night to the
desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.
Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their
Every person needs to have a
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.
Every person needs to have a
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.
Every person needs terror and great
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one
that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.
Every person needs to have a
TEXT STUDIES & LESSON PLANS
1. Towards Personal Redemption – Text Study
Lesson on using “Exodus” - Etti Ankri’s song
By Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld
JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance)
3. Chofshi – Free.
A lesson plan from MAKOM about the concept of “free” as it appears in “Hatikvah”,
Israel’s national anthem. Etti Ankri’s song featured in this lesson plan as well.
4. Exodus, Freedom and Responsibility – Facilitator’s Guide
American Jewish World Service
Purim celebrations, by their definition, are festive and spirited events. Between the graggers, the shpiels, and the carnivals (most often held in echoey social halls), Purim is nothing if not loud and boisterous. Unfortunately, the onslaught of sights and sounds can be overwhelming for even typically developing children and their parents. This goes double for a family who has a child with sensory sensitivities. Often, those families will stay away from Purim celebrations out of fear that their child will become overwhelmed and have a full-on meltdown in front of everyone in the synagogue.
Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to make Purim more accessible to every child and every family. Many are budget-neutral (or at least budget-low-impact) and all are relatively uncomplicated to make happen. Check out the list below, pick a few to try this year, and see what a difference it makes.
Create a quiet space. More than anything else, the existence of a quiet space for kids (or adults) who are feeling overwhelmed will transform your Purim celebration. If you do just this, many families who would otherwise never consider coming will do so. All you need is a room nearby (but far enough to dilute some of the noise from the celebration) with a door that closes, stocked with a few pillows, blankets, art projects, sensory materials like beans and playdoh, or anything else you think your community might enjoy.
Make headphones available during the shpiel (or throughout the day). Having a few sets of noise-reducing headphones available for kids (or adults) who get overwhelmed by too much noise will go a long way towards making folks feel welcome. We like the $12 ones here.
Create a social story. Social stories are simple illustrated booklets that tell kids what to expect at a Purim celebration. They are not meant to change the child’s behavior, but rather to help them understand events and the expectations and challenges associated with them. Click the links for great examples from Matan and Gateways.
Offer gluten- and dairy-free hamantaschen. Nothing says “Purim” quite like hamantaschen. Unfortunately, many kids (and adults) have dietary restrictions--gluten- and casein-free (i.e., dairy-free) diets are especially common--which don’t allow them to eat standard hamantaschen. You can make gluten and casein-free hamantaschen following recipes like this one or purchase them commercially at places like Mariposa Baking Company or even Amazon.
Tell the community that you are doing these things. All of your great work on inclusion will only succeed if people know you are doing it! Advertise the accommodations you are making explicitly on publicity associated with your Purim event: in email blasts, on flyers, in newsletters, on signage the day of the event, and beyond.