Israel education as diplomacy, not advocacy
We continue to commit such a disservice to our youth, putting them on the frontline to fight for our right to exist, carrying the weight of 2,000 years of exile, when they themselves don’t even know the aleph-bet of their own existence – let alone – Israel’s.
Why should a teenager on their way to college, managing their academic work-load, a part-time job, perhaps a relationship – while simultaneously discovering their own place in this world – now take on the responsibility of defending the modern nation-state of Israel with her own set of complexities, identity crises, and growing pains?
Time to take a step back, rethink our approach, recognize our mistakes and leap-frog into a new era transitioning Israel advocacy into Israel education-diplomacy.
The problem with Israel advocacy is that we got it all wrong: ‘advocacy,’ defined by Miriam Webster, is public support for, or recommendation of, a particular cause or policy, Israel advocacy is not in support of Israel – Israel advocacy is in defense of a cause – in defense of Israel. This is the problem; we lost before we ever got started. Here is what we are telling our kids: Israel is under attack, yet again, our backs are to the wall, now go and care, and defend Israel..
Why would they? Why should they? And finally, how could they?
In comes education diplomacy.
Used primarily for emerging and underdeveloped countries as a means for nation to nation bridge building, cultural exchange, and collaboration, I am convinced that educational initiatives centered on relationship building and long-path cooperation is the way to go.
What is education diplomacy? Education diplomacy cultivates trust to achieve mutual benefits in the pursuit of specific goals using skills, infused within an education, to communicate beyond obstacles such as differences of opinion, transcultural, religious, and political diversity.
Whereas for the most part today’s Israel Education is informed by a single-prism approach in defense of Israel, or Israel advocacy, inclusive learning and diversity education can introduce a pluralistic and proactive approach with the integration of education diplomacy in Israel education pedagogy. The challenge we find in within some approaches to Israel education is a lack of pluralism. There may have been a time when there was a single thread approach to teaching, the difference today is that cultural diversity and pluralism have become the norm.
Whether it starts on the communal, national or global level, Jewish youth see themselves as a part of the globalization and interconnectedness of all youth. I believe Jewish communal organizations, institutions, thought-leaders and funders have the ability to instill the values of education diplomacy, including peace education, cross-culturalism, and collaboration, into Israel Education in a way that does not threaten inner-group identity while simultaneously opening up to incorporate global-citizenship identity; this is where are youth are, it is on us to meet them there.
Rabbi Leor Sinai, influencer and principle at Sinai Strategies, LLC, is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Education Leadership at the JTS Davidson School of Education.