Israel Update – Teaching Israeli news & current affairs

27 Jun

by Ilan Bloch

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1) Chanichim’s connection to their homes in the US is based not only on their knowledge of the Founding Fathers, but rather, also on their immersion in the goings-on of daily American life. In a similar way, and in order to strengthen chanichim’s/students’ relationship to modern Israel, it is important to combine study of Zionist/Israeli history with that of contemporary Israeli affairs. The former should serve as educational scaffolding for the latter, which should, in turn, foster chanichim’s interest in the former.

2) As Israel educators, we need to ensure that chanichim do not live in a “bubble” – whether this be a Masa program base in Israel or a conceptual-ideological one in the US. As has been said, Israel is real, and it is in nobody’s interest that chanichim learn about an anachronistic Israel which does not exist outside the confines of the Israel educator’s classroom.

3) It is important not to lose the forest for the trees. That is, try and ensure that you concentrate on covering general themes of Israeli current affairs, specifically, peace & security, the economy, and culture (which would include religion & state issues). It should be made clear how the specific news items with which you deal serve as illustrations of these general themes. Remember not to focus solely on peace & security issues. Just as many chanichim would not follow the intricacies of American involvement in Afghanistan or Iraq, they might lose interest in the minutiae of the Israeli geopolitical map.

4) Know your audience and find the correct balance. Do not present every detail of each news story but, on the other hand, do not go for simple sound bites. Either way, the Israel educator should know as much of the news as possible herself. Click here for links to all major Israeli news providers.

5) Do not shy away from the “bad stuff.” Israel is not perfect and the chanichim know as such (they can see it and read about it in any newspaper!) In order that US & Israeli Jewry correct and perfect Israel in partnership with one another they first need to understand its problems. Click here for more about this point.

6) Regardless of your own political persuasion, and that of your institution, it is important to present different opinions in relation to the current affairs which you discuss. This is in order to facilitate the development of a sophisticated understanding amongst chanichim of different political philosophies regarding Israel, as well as the formulation of their own personal viewpoints. Access http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2013/Pages/Editorials-12-June-2013.aspx for daily compilations of different English-language newspaper editorials. (You will need to update the date in the URL.)

Questions to consider (comments are most welcome!): Points 5) and 6) are relevant for more senior chanichim/students. From what grade level and/or level of prior Israel knowledge do these points become relevant? Regardless of age and/or prior Israel knowledge, can you think of a context in which these points would be irrelevant? What are the benefits/drawbacks of implementing these two points?

A suggested method: Divide chanichim into groups and assign each group a “state of Israel,” based on this piece. Call news conferences where madrichim act out breaking news, play a pre-prepared radio transmission, screen a pre-prepared video news broadcast, distribute a pre-printed news article and/or distribute a pre-printed news/current affairs cartoon. Ask each group to react to each news item according to its persona, either by presenting a Tweet, a Facebook status update, a digital photo which its members took, making a press statement (in writing or orally), or preparing a bumper sticker and/or poster. Encourage the different groups to explore whether they can form cooperative agreements with other groups on an ad-hoc basis.

Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel. To order an Israel Update session from Teaching Israel please write director@teachingisrael.com. For more information please visit http://www.teachingisrael.com/

* The content on this site may be distributed and reprinted, as long as acknowledgement is given to Ilan Bloch (or the relevant author) and Teaching Israel, and the URL is included intact. http://www.teachingisrael.com/

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