500 Words on Israel Education – An Answer with Four Questions
By Robbie Gringras
Pluralism is all well and good, but the amount of different opinions on, approaches to, and definitions of Israel Education, is driving us all crazy.
All of us in Israel Education find ourselves talking at cross-purposes, inadvertently undermining one another, and further confusing an already-challenging discourse. Cacophony is only good when the orchestra is tuning up to play together.
Is there one simple, easily communicated idea that can unify everyone without requiring uniformity?
Is there one way to explain, promote, define, and explore the meaning of Israel to Jews that includes everyone, offends no one, and yet says something useful?
Probably not. It’s a big ask, after all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying…
We at Makom call our current approach “4HQ – the Four Hatikvah Questions.”
Our feeling is that no matter what your answers are, or what the answers are that you intend your students to emerge with, the Four Hatikvah Questions are common to all. They emerge, of course, from the penultimate line in the Hatikvah Anthem: Lihiyot Am Hofshi B’Artzenu – To Be A People, Free In Our Land.
Taken on its own, “To Be A People, Free In Our Land” is a universal aspiration, by no means unique to the Jews.
The Kurds aspire to exist as a Kurdish People, Free in the land of Kurdistan. The Scottish People seriously considered becoming Free in Scotland. Catalonians, Tibetans, and Palestinians (we’ll come back to them in a later blog) – all aspire to be Peoples free in their lands. Zionism is the Jewish version of this universal (and therefore one might argue universally legitimate) aspiration: To be the People of Israel, Free in the Land of Israel.
All that is required for the educator, is to break this line down into its four Hebrew words, and add a question mark to each:
- To Be? – what does it take to survive? how can we thrive?
- People? – what does it mean to be connected to my People? my heritage? our ideals?
- Free? – are we democratic? are we responsible? are we creative?
- Our Land? – why land? which land? whose land?
Israel is an ongoing answer to these Four Hatikvah Questions.
Those mainly concerned with Advocacy might find they focus on “To Be?”, at the expense of other questions. Those on the left may emphasize “Freedom?” without digging into the existential threats hovering around the question of “To Be.” Some are more drawn to the universal ideas of “To be” and “Free”: Others tend more towards the particularism of “People” and “In Our Land.”
A full, rich curriculum would explore all four.
In future blogs I plan to tease out how 4HQ offers:
- A useful tool to differentiate between Israel’s enemies, and critical friends.
- A way to Ask Big Questions about Israel.
- A “rule of thumb” for taking educational advantage of complex current affairs headlines.
- A model for transforming Israel education in the Jewish world.
- A shared values proposition for the Diaspora and Israel.
Robbie Gringras is Creative Director at Makom.