It is Good to Know

15 Apr

by Kate Rosenberg

Photo courtesy of http://mondoweiss.net

By educating that Israel is still in an unfinished state, and by training our students to critique Israel and its choices, we are bestowing them with the power to take the lead and play active roles in the ongoing creation of the State of Israel, thereby, creating active Zionists.

I was lucky enough to have been brought up in a Jewish, Zionist environment which taught me to be critical, encouraged me to ask questions and pushed me to peak “behind the curtains” when it came to Israel and Zionism. My first few visits to Israel sparked a love/hate relationship with the country, which was fueled just as much by a repulsion of its ways as an attraction to the role I could play in transforming it into the society I knew it could be. Instead of completely being turned off by the challenges Israeli society posed for a young, naive Anglo, I believe my critical education equipped me to really live in its society and adopt a more hands-on approach.

Two-and-a-half years ago I made the decision to make Aliyah, with one important proviso: if I were not doing something to help change the issues in Israeli society to which I took offense, I would not be authorized to continue living in Israel. Six months later, I was amongst the founders of Tov Lada’at(Good to Know), which was a good thing, because I really did want to stay in Israel!

In the belief that the African refugee and asylum seeker community in Israel needs to be educated and headed by a strong leadership, Tov Lada’at provides support and access to members of that community who wish to study in higher education in Israel. One year ago we launched our first Tov Lada’at Fellowship, and are currently supporting six inspiring students through their undergraduate studies at the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Center through scholarship provision, community leadership training and a community volunteer program. When selecting our fellows, we seek highly motivated individuals eager to be leaders of their communities here in Israel or the political leaders of their home countries when it is safe for them to return.

The name, Tov Lada’at, is both a statement about the right to education for African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, but also about ourselves. It is good for us to know, even if what we learn is sometimes difficult, ugly or messy to deal with. Our knowing is an acknowledgement of the situation and the first step in moving towards improvement or change.

My work with Tov Lada’at (and all the challenges that working with the African refugee community in Israel it has brought with it) has provided an avenue for me to connect with my love for Israel and the Jewish People, and to carve out the more just society I would like for Israel. I believe that some Israel educators still shy away from engaging in a real critique of Israeli society in the fear that it is not their place to do so or that it will turn their students away. In response I say do not be shy to examine Israel in its entirety – warts and all – in order to facilitate amongst our students a feeling of ownership and the right to have a say about how they want their Jewish state to look like. If we do not provide our students with that much, if we are afraid of passing onto them the baton for fear of what they may do with it, then there is not much chance they will accept it at all.

Kate Rosenberg is the co-founder and director of Tov Lada’at and the Coordinator of Professional Development at the International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies within Beit Hatfutsot. She currently lives in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

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