Israel is Complicated…Teach It with Confidence

Educating students about modern Israel is not an easy task.  It presents numerous challenges, including our personal and political biases, where to devote our energies, and how to help our students truly understand the country’s many complexities. Challenging, however, does not mean impossible. So writes Richard Walter, associate director of the Center for Israel Education at Emory University, in the Foreword to the Israel…It’s Complicated Teacher Resource Guide.

Developed by Behrman House in consultation with the CIE, the resource guide offers a package of materials for teachers of all experience and skill levels. As Walter writes, “Our aim as Israel educators should be to create critical thinkers, not followers, no matter our personal politics.”

Here are three strategies you can focus on for effective Israel education, as excerpted from the Foreword:

  1. Focus on the broad concepts like ensuring the future, of returning to our ancestral homeland, and of self-governance, the centrality of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, and the concept that Israel is a complex laboratory for living a Jewish life in the modern world.  Use facts and stories to emphasize these concepts. Don’t try to cover every historical fact.  You are not teaching a university seminar.
  2. Don’t assume you only need to teach Israel as its own unit or grade level curriculum.  Limiting Israel to a singular concept fails to place it into the context of all aspects of Jewish life. Rather, think about all the ways that you can bring Israel into the many topics and subjects you are teaching and across the many grades.
  3. Focus on the positive.  While a lot of Israel’s complexity is about the country’s challenges, there is much to celebrate.  Remember that Israel, like any country, is not a finished product.  As a maturing nation, it is still learning to deal with many of the complexities laid out in Israel…It’s Complicated.  But when we only present Israel in the context of anti-Semitism and what others have done to the Jewish people, we fail to help our students understand the importance of self-determination and choice. 

Want to learn more? Sign up for Golem Express, our special program that delivers the latest resources to your door. Israel…It’s Complicated will be available for sale on April 15.


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