Israel can use some love. It’s not hard to find

July 29, 2021

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


Over the past 20 years, Jewish organizations and philanthropists have invested heavily in Israel advocacy. Perhaps that is why the rate of Jewish disaffection with Israel is not even higher. Investing more in Israel education might make it lower.

There is a fuzziness along the border between advocacy and education that is often used to make them sound so similar as to avoid clarifying distinctions and setting priorities. While the blurring of the line between advocacy and education might be a function of the overlap between them, they are distinct and should be addressed separately. Unless we address them separately and place a greater emphasis on Israel education, communal momentum will continue to bend towards supporting advocacy, addressing short-term crises and placing in peril the longer-term strategic plan of the Jewish people which includes nurturing an emotional bond with Israel, a lifelong relationship that begins well before and extends far beyond the current primary focus on the college years.

Israel education is about falling in love with Israel. Israel advocacy is about protecting the Israel we love. Our defense of Israel would crumble if our love for Israel is not first grounded. And here is the critical distinction between the two: while falling in love with Israel through education is a process that can thrive on its own, the efficacy of Israel advocacy cannot endure unless it is built upon solid Israel education. That education is the sublime support that maintains our relationship and allows it to grow deeper and wider regardless of the political environment. Focusing on Israel advocacy without the prerequisite long-term commitment to, and preparation of Israel education creates the quiet corrosion that leads to collapse.

In the early 2000’s the second Intifada engulfed Israel in terror and ignited anti-Israel activities on campuses and throughout the world. Dr. Jonathan Woocher, of blessed memory, commented that the Jewish communal responses to these political assaults were wholly inadequate because we squandered the seven years of relative quiet after the first Intifada subsided. We neglected to lay a deep and lasting foundation of Israel education for all ages and throughout our communal infrastructure. We did not prepare adequately. We did not practice the shot.

Today we have brilliant resources to create and to elevate meaningful connections to Israel. Sophisticated initiatives like the iCenter, Hillel’s Inquiry-Centered Model of Israel Education, the Jewish Agency’s Makom, The Center for Israel Education, and others are valuable communal holdings that provide quality Israel education. There is another magnificent asset that brings expertise in Israel education to a wider age range and is easily accessible to Jewish communities throughout the country – the Jewish day school. I suggest that when considering the resources for broader and deeper Israel education, day schools are uniquely positioned to provide present-value in the leadership they can offer to the Jewish community beyond those who are engaged in the schools.

For decades, Jewish day schools have been producing deeply rooted Jewish communal citizens with a profound understanding of their unique relationship to the Jewish State and to her people. Day schools understand that, while important, Israel education is not based upon delineating green lines, deciphering peace plans or defining apartheid. Israel education is a continuous, years-long commitment of building new knowledge upon existing knowledge based on foundations of Jewish teaching, tradition, history and culture. And all of this, all the while, is handed over by educators with care and pride. With love. Even while day schools themselves seek to expand Israel education for their own students, they should be viewed and valued as a key resource in the development of community-based Israel education for children, teens and their families in addition to, and as an integral part of any strategy to advance Israel education.

Day schools and their educators can provide the consistency of practice that leads to informed, articulate and skilled performance, perhaps to the perfect shot. More important, they exemplify the every-day encounters that lead to love.

Read the entire piece at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Aug. 05, 2021