Activity: Building A Nation - Birthpangs

The aim of this activity is to introduce the students to the difficulties of nation-building and to start dealing with the complexities of the real Israel.

Please note: it is possible to exchange this activity and the examination of this issue with the next issue and exercise. There are reasons for and against doing this. In the end it is an issue of personal preference.

  • Begin by presenting the class with the following quote from David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel and the leading force in the country in its early years.

    The immigrants must be taught our language and a knowledge of the land… They must conceive what the first settlers did with their bare hands… Being privileged to enter Israel; the newcomers must be told that they too must toil; if perhaps less than their forerunners… We must melt down this fantastically diversified assembly and make it afresh in the die of a renewed nationhood. We must break down the barriers of geography and culture of society and speech, which keep the different sections apart and endow them with a single language, a single culture, a single citizenship, a single loyalty, with new legislation and new laws. We must give them a new spirit, a culture and literature, science and art.
    David Ben Gurion 1951

  • Discuss the piece and ask for the students’ opinions. Emphasize the importance of the piece, which represents no less than the blueprint for the building of a nation. What is Ben Gurion saying? What is his model for the new Jewish nation that must arise in the new state?
  • Introduce the model of the new Jew. We suggest going back to the pictures from the Zionist posters that were used in the last exercise. Which picture of the pioneer/new Jew do all the posters have in common? Make a list of the characteristics common to all the posters; expand it to include additional things that were mentioned in the explanation above.
  • Explain that in the process of the development of the positive ideal of the new Jew an opposite, very negative picture necessarily developed that included all those things that the new Jew clearly was not, i.e. the ‘Old Jew’. Explain that both these images were stereotypes. With the help of the students, list those characteristics that represent the old Jew. The two lists should stand opposite one another on the board.
  • Return to the Ben Gurion quote. How do the students react to the ideas in the piece in light of their realization that he means to develop the new nation - as much as possible - according to the model of the new Jew? Ask whether the reality of Israel in these years as a young, almost bankrupt nation effectively at war with all of its neighbors, should be taken into consideration when discussing Ben Gurion’s ideas.
  • Give out the six portraits from the previous exercise: Zvia, Moshe, Gertrud, Sam, Sarah and Baruch. If possible, we suggest giving them to those class members who received them at the beginning of the previous exercise (and wrote the diary entry for them).
  • The students' present task is to write a monologue in which each figure responds to the quote by Ben Gurion. They might want to use the list of characteristics that represent the new Jew. Each person should consider the implications for him/her and also reflect on the idea that this model is meant to serve as the basis for the new Jewish nation in the State of Israel.
  • Divide the students into groups according to the portraits they received. Let the members of each group share their opinions and formulate a common group reaction for that individual.
  • Each group should now its response to the class. The class should comment on the response to each character and the reaction should be summarized on the board in a few words.
  • When all six portraits have been discussed, make a summary yourself, drawing on the explanation above regarding, especially, the difficulties that the four characters, Gertrud, Moshe, Sarah and Baruch would be likely to face in the new society. Indicate that the above is a generalization and that not every individual from each group necessarily had the same fate, but that it is important to recognize the difficulties that members of the different immigrant groups experienced and the reasons for them.
  • Offer the piece from Amos Oz in Beit Shemesh. Indicate that the speaker is the son of a Baruch-type figure (or possibly the son of a Moshe).
  • We suggest summarizing the activity by stressing the nature of Israel as a democracy. Emphasize the importance of that fact in a country as split as Israel, full of different opinions that need to be mediated through a political process. Indicate, however, that democracy is not a perfect system and that there is a need in every working democracy to respect the rights and identity of all minority groups, in order to avoid unnecessary tensions from developing within the system.


 

 

Share                   PRINT    
11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0