Monday, August 16, 2021

  • Monday, August 16, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon

From Haaretz:

Toasting marshmallows around the campfire, splashing in a lake and competing in color wars are all images that come to mind when we think of classic summer camp activities. Comparing narratives about Jerusalem by reading the poetry of Israeli and Palestinian writers Yehuda Amichai and Mahmoud Darwish, or stepping into the shoes of Jewish, Christian and Muslim social justice activists? Not so much.

But a new program launched this summer in the United States, called “Breaking Binaries, Creating Connections,” is attempting to add a new dimension to the Jewish summer camp experience.

In 2018, the need to better equip young Jews for such future challenges came to the fore when the leftist-activist group IfNotNow launched its “You Never Told Me” campaign.

In an open letter that year to their day schools, youth movements and summer camps, a group of young Jewish Americans asserted that they had been denied “the honest truth” about Israel and would “no longer accept an educational approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ranges from open endorsement of indefinite occupation to saying ‘it’s complicated’ and leaving it at that,” nor “accept a communal norm that will force another generation to only learn about the occupation only once they leave these institutions.”

That campaign (which led to a syllabus drawn up by Jewish educators, spiritual leaders and students to be used as a resource by institutions and individuals) “rattled” the world of Jewish summer camps and the wider community, said Libby Lenkinski, the NIF’s vice president of public engagement, who is spearheading the new camp curriculum effort.

The problem of Jewish teens going to college completely unprepared to discuss Israel is a real problem.

The solution isn't to give all narratives equal weight. That is not how to educate kids - itis how to confuse them and let them know that their fellow Jews in Israel are awful human beings who don't give a damn about human rights.

Any Jewish camp or school must teach from the perspective of "here is what the other side says, and here is why it is wrong." Students and campers would have the opportunity to ask the hard questions but the important part is that they would know that there are answers, even if the answers are sometimes difficult. 

Just like it would be unfair to ask kids to look objectively at any negative feelings their neighbors and parents' coworkers might feel about their family, it is irresponsible to raise them to think that the Israeli side of the story is just one of many, and that those who want to destroy the Jewish state have just as much of a right to describe it as Jews do. Even if that description is in a beautiful poem.

So, yes, kids should know both sides, know what side they are on - and know how to answer the other side. They should know the arguments and understand them, but they need to be brought up with a sense of right and wrong and not that everyone is equally right. 

The "right of return" sounds very reasonable unless you know its history and real goals. 

"Occupation" sounds awful unless you know Israel's valid claims to the territory and the dangers it faced before 1967 as well as Palestinian rejection of a state with terror. 

"5 million refugees" sounds terrible unless you compare them to other real refugees and understand what the definition of refugee is, and how innocent people are used as weapons. against Israel.

"67 kids killed in Gaza" sounds horrific if one if ignorant about the difficulties of war in an urban area where the combatants purposefully hide behind children. 

Yes, some Palestinians have suffered and deserve sympathy, empathy and help. But that doesn't make them automatically right, nor righteous.

And teaching the history of Zionism without putting it in the context of both Jewish history in the Land, and of historic Muslim and Arab antisemitism, is irresponsible.

This the the education that the organized, Zionist community has failed at, and it is 70 years past due.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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