Why are we still even having this discussion?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:34 Written by bryfy Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:29

Something must be on my mind – this is my first blog entry in over a year. Please excuse the crass nature of this blog entry – but some things just deserve to be said in plain and simple language – and maybe then the message will get through. I apologize in advance for everyone that I offend in this piece – please don’t take it personally – I’d like to consider myself an equal opportunity offender.

Why are we even still engaging in a debate as to whether multiple narratives should be taught when educating about Israel? See here for example.

Despite people trying to make this into a complicated and political issue it is neither – it really is quite simple.

If you want to educate about Israel, in particular the reality of what is taking place in Israel you have to teach about the conflict(s) in and around that country.

Of course it is not the only thing that you must teach about Israel – but you can’t avoid it. Doing so is just ridiculous. Any kid with a digital pulse knows that there is something happening over there that isn’t always palatable (to all people) – so putting your head in the sand as an educator is absurd and denying Jewish learners of their right to learn.

You might need to decide what age is appropriate to educate about the conflicts in Israel – but big news here – every educator always has to determine when it is developmentally appropriate to teach anyone anything. I don’t know your learners but I do know that in many places of Jewish learning that we welcome our children into our communities as adults at the age of 12 or 13. Avoiding complexity after that age is just bad education.

Someone once told me that we don’t need to teach the Palestinian narrative because that is what they get on CNN and the New York Times. That is plain and simple ridiculous.

Someone once told me that its not our job to teach the other side because they might align themselves more with the “other” than “ourselves.” Besides the fact that in the Arab-Israeli conflict I don’t think anyone is certain anymore who is “us” and who is “them” – this notion is ridiculous. People don’t change sides when they earn about the other, whoever that might be. They change sides either because they identify with their cause or because someone has hoodwinked them by depriving them of a critical piece of the story and they davka (in spite of) turn their backs on authority just to upset them. The more we hide the other side form our learners the more they will reject our narrative – that is adolescence 101.

Someone once told me that our job is to teach our kids to love Israel.  Yes it might be – but go talk to any 21st century kid today. They are critical, rational and logical human beings – they love because they think someone is right for them not because someone told them who or what they should yearn for.

Someone once told me that our job is to prepare our kids to be Israel’s foot soldiers when they get to college campus. I’m really sorry – I am a Jewish educator and that is not my role. And with all due respect to all of you passionate Israel advocates out there (from AIPAC to J-Street and everything in between and on either side) no child ever became an advocate before they learned about something. Educate them first, advocacy will follow. Or it wont – but believe me you wont get more advocates out of this generation if you hide nuance from them.

Someone once told me that we should bring in more Israelis to teach our kids – Israelis know the real truth of what is happening over there. By all means bring in Israelis to teach our kids. But partner these Israelis with educators who the kids of the diaspora can relate to. Israel education is about Jewish identity – if we keep presenting it as that which belongs to the other (in this case the Israeli) then they will see it as the domain of the other – which it is not. Israel education is integral to understanding the Jewish experience of the 21st century. Israelis only know their story – educators should be intelligent enough to facilitate the entire Jewish experience.

Someone once told me that telling dual narratives was the domain of leftists. I call bullshit on that. Dual narratives, and even multiple narratives is the domain of the post modern world in which we live.

Someone with lots of money told me that they would only fund Israel education if it promoted a positive relationship with Israel. So be it – they can fund what they choose to – but a positive relationship with Israel is to engage with Israel in any number of ways – not only one way.

Someone once told me that to be a supporter of Israel is to support the Israeli government of the day – not to do so, especially in the diaspora, is to be anti-Israel or anti-Jewish unity. Again I call crap. Unity does not mean that we all have one opinion on every issue.

So as you can see there are a lot of people out there telling me what we ought to be teaching when it comes to Israel education. Please do me a favor – stop telling me what to do. Especially leave your political baggage at the door. Leave Israel education up to the educators and maybe then we all stand a fighting chance.


  1. Peter Eckstein   |  Tuesday, 25 August 2015 at 10:15 pm

    wow. good. thanks.

  2. Franny   |  Wednesday, 26 August 2015 at 8:59 am

    Thank you for this voice of reason and clarity. The Jewish world is in desperate need of these voices from people in leadership positions. Especially educators. Amen v’amen. Yasher Koach. And a heart torah rabah.

  3. Roosie   |  Wednesday, 26 August 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Great post, Bryfy! Rock on!

  4. Dani Miller   |  Wednesday, 26 August 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Al I have to say is – touche Bryf touche! – as a fellow educator I can not agree with you, it is absolutely ridiculous we are still hiving these discussions

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