How can we effectively engage the topic of conflict in Israel in any educational setting?
When Israel faces a crisis, many of us feel powerless. Our friends and relatives are scared, our people are scared, and yet it is beyond our power to make the situation better.
For some educators, this is a reason to avoid bringing Israel into the classroom. Why give our students upsetting information and leave them feeling there is nothing they can do?
But whether you are a day-school educator, supplementary school educator, youth leader, rabbi, or parent, there are things – albeit small things – that we and our students can do to show those in Israel and in our communities that our thoughts and feelings are about and with Israel.
What can you do as an educator?
1. Reach out to Israelis as individuals.
Have your students write a note – even a short email – to someone they know in Israel, even if they don’t know them personally. If your students can’t think of anyone they are connected to, they can write letters to lone soldiers, community partners, or people who are connected to your school. This is an easy way to live our Jewish values.
2. Reach out to Israelis as a community.
Does your school have families from Israel, former students who are back in Israel, alumni studying in Israel for the year or who have moved to Israel? Reach out as a community to those individuals. If you have a weekly class or school newsletter, ask someone in Israel to write a short piece from their perspective. First person narratives are often far more impactful than a recitation of the facts.
3. Connect with Israelis in your community.
If any Israelis live in your community, they are likely nervous about family members or worrying about the news. Reaching out to these people, even if they aren’t directly affected, is an important step.
4. Read the news.
Make time in class to discuss the news. Don’t worry that you don’t have all the answers -- nobody does. Your students need a place where they can express themselves, ask questions, mention their fears. Taking time out of class to make sure everyone is informed demonstrates that our community believes this is important.
5. Send information to parents.
Again, you don’t need to know everything. Give parents a list of websites that you see as trusted places, especially since news can be scarce here. A list of three or four trusted websites, the links to Israeli news on the radio, and suggestions of things that they can talk about with their children is enough. For more information, please see the link in the resources section below.
6. Bring Israeli news into your school.
Hourly radio news updates from Israel are readily available online. Whether they are on a bus or at home, Israelis often stop talking in order to listen to the headlines. Choose a time or two to broadcast that news in Hebrew. Even if your students don’t understand the language, it’ll bring the unique sound of Israeli newscasts into your school. Ask your staff to model the behavior of stopping and listening to the news. If it’s possible to translate some of the top stories, that will add more to the experience.
7. Bring the sounds of Israel into your environment.
Having Israel in our minds and hearts doesn’t just mean focusing on the fear.
If there are times when music can be played at school, tune into an Israeli radio station like Galgalatz. Your students will recognize some of the songs as the same ones they enjoy, and they’ll also hear Hebrew and some music that is new to them.
8. Create a space for prayer.
If your school has a time and space for prayer, call attention to the Prayer for Israel before reciting it. If you do not generally include it in your service, consider adding it and explaining why you’ve chosen to do so. If you generally recite it in Hebrew, have your students read it out loud in English as well, or add time after the t’fillah for a silent meditation.