Helping Young People Become Conversant With What’s Happening In Israel

By Sam Aboudara

How do we make sense of what is happening in Israel? The events that have taken place in recent weeks are extremely saddening and at the same time, very complex. The deaths and casualties on both sides are a major blow to humanity and the prospect of peace in a region that so desperately needs it. The problem with conflict is that it has (at least) two sides. The problem with conflict is that it is complex and sparks heightened levels of emotion.

Our Facebook newsfeeds are not necessarily helping us to make better sense of this conflict. No doubt social media provides us with great access to real time news, but the likelihood is that most of it is coming from one side of the coin. We can not come any closer to understanding the motives and narrative of the current Israeli-Palestinian situation by reading what our friends share on Facebook and post out of anger and upset.

That is not to say that we should keep quiet or suppress our own thoughts and feelings. But it is to say that we need to challenge ourselves to read both sides of the story. That is to say that we need to ask ourselves the question of whether that policeman used justifiable force. That is to say that we need to seek out a bigger picture to help answer difficult questions like: Why is the global media not reporting these event sufficiently? Or, why are Palestinian children receiving an education ladled with Antisemitic indoctrination?

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe we need to invite the conversation and most importantly, we need to invite that conversation with young people – on college campuses, in Jewish youth movements, in high schools. After all, if we wish to continue on the topic of Jewish Vitality, there can not be anything more significant than addressing the issues that are happening today. While we seek to find out how to engage young Jewish people in Jewish life, let’s tackle the very topics that are surrounding their lives and their social media spheres right now.

We need to find the tools to educate future Israel advocates on the history and context of Israeli-Palestinian affairs. The challenge here, is that it’s complicated and very long winded. Collating compelling multimedia aides, descriptive diagrams and utilizing experiential resources is imperative, but we have to start with the context. We can not rely upon simply educating that ‘this land was promised to us.’ We need to address the part where the Palestinian people became refugees, we need to delve into the circumstantial reasons that have caused recent events.

We then need to provide alternative media sources that provide a different narrative than the usual pro Israeli ones that we are used to. We need to read what pro Palestinian journalists are writing and be able to show the broader picture of what we are contending with.

Finally, we need to be active. We need social events and projects, protests, lobbying efforts, forums that encourage healthy debate and other creative outlets that will raise awareness and armor young people with well-informed arguments.

The ‘we’ I’m referring to are the communal and educational institutions that have access to young Jewish people. The potential byproduct from this could be that we find new and interesting ways to better achieve our aims of Jewish engagement. But at the very minimum, we can help guide our future Israel advocates, offering them the tools and training to be conversant with today’s Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

Sam Aboudara is Director of NJY Teen Camp.