Activity: Creating A Jewish State For All

The aim of this activity is to introduce the students to some of the practical and conceptual difficulties involved in transforming dream into reality and creating one society for all.

  • Present the students with the following six pen-portraits of Jews. Each represents Jews who decided to come to Israel in the early years of the state.

1. ZVIA (AGE 28)

Born and raised in Warsaw. Belonged to a socialist Zionist youth movement, HaShomer HaTzair before W.W.II. Planned to make aliyah to kibbutz and underwent a period of (hachshara - training) on a farm to prepare her for her future life. The war interfered and she became part of the underground resistance in the ghetto. Lost many friends who died in the resistance. She managed to survive. When the ghetto was destroyed, she hid out in the non-Jewish part of Warsaw. Spent several years after the war helping organize illegal immigration from Europe. Has now decided to take up the life that she hoped to start many years back.

2. MOSHE (AGE 50)

From Baghdad. Traditional Jew well involved in the life of modern Baghdad. Possesses a good general education as well as a fair traditional Jewish one. A large-scale cloth merchant who shares a good standard of living with his wife and five children. Had no thoughts of leaving until life started to become increasingly difficult for Iraqi Jews after the foundation of the State of Israel. Has now decided that the climate is dangerous and, together with many other Jews from his community, has decided that the safest thing to do is to move the whole extended family over to Israel.

3. GERTRUD (AGE 45)

Was an assimilated Jew in Berlin before W.W.II, and made a living as a journalist and a poet. As a young woman, Jewishness and Judaism meant nothing to her. Only when Hitler came to power did she start to think of herself in any meaningful way as a Jew. Was sent to a number of different camps after the outbreak of war, and somehow survived. Her whole family died in the Holocaust. Feels she never wants to see the non-Jewish world again. Has no concrete plans regarding what she plans to do in Israel. Just hopes that when she is there she can rest and be safe.

4. SAM (AGE 23)

From Toronto, Canada. Somewhat traditional. With his parents, he belonged to a Reform Jewish congregation. Was not involved in Zionist activities until the last few years, but the news of the Holocaust and the drama of the establishment of the Jewish state galvanized him into activity. He was very active in demonstrating for a Jewish state before its establishment, and in fundraising for it after its foundation. It is clear that the only place he wants to live is in the new State of Israel. Studied law in college but is torn between a willingness to practice law and a romantic impulse to work on the land wherever he is needed. Absolutely prepared to join the new Israeli army and fight for the future of the state.

5. SARAH (AGE 40)

Deeply orthodox in her religious beliefs. Came from a small town in Lithuania where she lived with her shopkeeper husband and six children. Experienced ghettoization in Vilna and was transported with her family to one of the death camps. Survived together with two of her older children but the rest of the family did not. Her family was deeply opposed to Zionism, seeing it as usurping God’s messianic work. She herself is no Zionist even now, but she knows that the immediate necessity is to get out of Europe. She has family in Israel and has decided to go to them. With God’s help she will manage to build some kind of a life for her children in Eretz Israel.

6. BARUCH (AGE 32)

Born in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. Comes from a small village where he works as a tailor. Is traditionally religious like all the people in his village. Possesses only a limited education (all of it in Jewish subjects) which he received in the house of the local primary teacher. Married and has four children. Has decided to go to Eretz Israel because, like most of the Jews in his village, he sees the news of a new Jewish state as the beginning of the fulfillment of messianic ideas. Hopes to settle in a village or small town together with many of the other people in his village who have also decided on aliyah.

 

  • Each student receives one of these portraits. They must write a letter or a diary entry in which ‘their’ person reflects on their reasons for moving to the new Jewish state and what they hope to find there. What are his/her hopes for the Jewish state, which they plan to move to in the near future? What sort of a state do they want to be part of?

They should try to relate to the following specific questions:

1. Why do I want to live in a jewish state?

2. What do I hope to find there?

3. What do I want the religious character of the state to be?

4. What sort of a Shabbat do I want to have? What do I want to do on Shabbat?

5. Do I see the state as a Western (European) state or as something else?

6. How should the law of the state be decided? What should be the place of halacha in the new state?

7. What should be the status of Orthodox Judaism? Will other, non-orthodox forms of Judaism be accepted?

  • After this writing activity, divide the students up into six groups so that all those who received a particular portrait are in the same group.
  • Together they should share their different ideas on each of the above questions. They should try to come up with a group answer for every one. Each student should note down the group answers.
  • Now split the class up into new groups so that a representative of each of the old groups is in each of the new groups. The new groups can thus deal with all the portraits.
  • In every group, each student must represent their character, preferably in the first person. The group as a whole should listen to all the opinions of the characters regarding the questions raised. They can question each other and discuss but should not argue or try to impose their ideas on each other. The aim here is to understand varying ideas and concepts of a Jewish life and a Jewish state.
  • At a certain point, when enough time has passed for examining the previous question, tell the groups that they must try to reach a group decision on question 3,4,6 or 7 within a specified time. Give them ten minutes for this and then stop the group process.
  • Bring everyone together for a discussion. We suggest basing this on the following questions:

    * What did each person find most interesting in the opinions of the other people in the group (or, perhaps, in their own character)?

    * What was the dynamic in the first part of the group process? Did people listen to each other? Were they interested in each other’s views?

    * What was the dynamic in the second part of the group process? Did some people try to impose their opinions on others, or was there an attempt to reach consensus? Did they succeed in reaching a consensus on the issue? Did they reach a majority group opinion that did not include everybody? How did the people react who were not happy with the decision? How did they feel? [Ask them!]

  • After this, reflect on the question in relation to the State of Israel today. What can be understood about Israeli society from this exercise? Why is there so much conflict in Jewish Israeli society today? Would there have been conflict among the Jews even if the Arab world had accepted the new state?

• We suggest closing the activity by summarizing the discussion and relating it to the room in Beit Hatfutzot, mentioning some of the questions and thoughts that the room (and hopefully the exercise) provokes. Please note: students should hold on to their ‘diary entries’ for their characters. They will be used again in another exercise a few pages on.


 

 

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11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0