What one story do you think every American kid should learn about Israel?
In true Jewish contrarian fashion, I am going to dispute the premise here! Simplifying, or reducing everything to “one story” is precisely what we should NOT be doing. Israel is a very complex reality, both as a dynamic society comprised of Jews from all over the world, and as a political entity. It is this complexity to which we should be exposing our children—and ourselves. All of the distortions about Israel in public discourse are, at base, about reducing this complexity to some single rhetorical trope, slogan, or position. But the reality is much more complicated, much more interesting, and much more engaging.
If I were, however, to choose a single mantra with which to begin this exposure, it would be “We are family”—because that, for Jews, is what this is and must be all about. Israelis are our relatives, in some cases directly and in some, indirectly. Kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh, our tradition teaches us: All Jews are related to, connected to, responsible for, each other.
What Americans—children and adults—need to learn about Israel is its reality: it is a real country with real people, not just an idea or an ideal. The best way to learn about Israel is to get to know Israelis, be they camp counselors, exchange students, youth leaders, or community shelichim (Israeli cultural ambassadors). And to spend time there, whether on a youth movement trip, a Birthright trip, or a semester abroad. Passionate commitment is based in intimate experience and concrete engagement.
Rabbi Dr. Richard Sarason is Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, OH, where he has been a faculty member since 1979. Prior to that time, he was Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1977. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, in 1974. He received his A.B. in Economics from Brandeis University in 1969, and was a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1970 to 1972, while attending HUC-JIR. (more here)