“It Makes Me Feel Many Different Things”: A Child’s Relationships to Israel over Time


Source: Journal of Jewish Education 


This article offers a detailed study of one child’s relationships to Israel from kindergarten (2012–2013 academic year) through 7th grade (2019–2020 academic year). By tracing Avigail over the course of eight years, I argue that children do not develop “a relationship” with Israel but rather many different relationships over time. Using a combination of qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, image and music elicitation, storytelling exercises, and parental communications, this case study uses one child’s many different conceptions of and relationships to Israel over the course of her childhood and adolescence to shed light on key questions in Israel education.

Three forces – Avigail’s own growing developmental capacities, the unfolding of current events, and the influence of her mother – each brought about profound shifts in how Avigail viewed Israel and its roles in her life. The fluidity and elasticity of her evolving relationships to Israel means that her childhood beliefs belie so many of the categories that have been used to describe (older) Jews’ relationships with Israel. At some moments, Avigail felt deeply connected to Israel and at others she felt profoundly alienated from it (cf. Pomson, 2018; Pomson et al., 2014). At some points in time, she was primarily motivated by deeply personal experiences, and at others she was driven by concerns about the Jewish collective (cf. Winer, 2019). During certain periods in her childhood, she used the language of religious obligation to describe her connections to Israel, and during others she situated herself as part of a Jewish nation (cf. Gordis, 2019). Avigail’s childhood conceptions and beliefs may be catalogued but they cannot be so easily classified. World events, family decisions, and her own growing capacities for understanding all reshaped and resettled her thoughts and feelings about Israel time and again.


Gordis, D. (2019). We stand divided: The rift between American Jews and Israel. Ecco/Harper Collins.

Pomson, A., & Schnoor, R. F. (2018). Jewish family: Identity and self-formation at home. Indiana University Press.

Pomson, A., Wertheimer, J., & Hacohen-Wolf, H. (2014). Hearts and minds: Israel in North American Jewish day schools. AVI CHAI Foundation.

Winer, L. N. (2019). Teaching who they are: American-born supplementary school teachers’ connections with Israel [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Jewish Theological Seminary.

Updated: Aug. 01, 2021