Israel Education 'Blitz'

Dilemma Oriented Education by Martin Ben Moreh 

Martin is the Program Director of Judaism, Renewed Zionism and Israeli Society at the Reut Institute. He has been involved in education for over 30 years and has written articles and brochures related to educational thinking and implementation in the field.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been raging for over 100 years. In September 2011, we are reaching a new chapter when the Palestinians leadership goes to the UN, and presents its case for a Palestinian State.

The Israeli government and leaders of the Jewish  people all over the world are trying to get to grips with this new development and are in many ways perplexed  how they should react to this initiative.

There is no question that during the next few months Israel and the Palestinians will be constantly in th headlines of the newspapers and topping the Television shows. This is a great opportunity for Israel to put its case to  the ''people'' all over the world: Jews, non Jews, old and young.

Surveys which have been taken in North America recently show that the Jewish public in large and students in particular are tired of debating  this issue  in a black and white way  and are more intriged by the shades of grey. The old adage of ''My country right or wrong'' has lost its ability to influence  people especially young Jewish students , who are looking for a more nuance way to frame the  debate and also want to be real participants in the discussion.

Therefor we would like to present a concept of dilemma oriented education as a unique methodology to understand a complex issue.

Overview of educational process

1.             Present the issue  in sophisticated way – that bring up the shades of grey.

2.             Don't enter the debate from a position of ''I know who's right and whose wrong''.

3.             Use speakers who have a nuanced approach who are expert in getting the audience to think and to participate vin the discussion

4.             The use of ''Text'' – this could be be a written text , a video, movie,  youtube, a song, a play,newspaper headline,  a drawing, a story  etc, the purpose of the ''text'' is to stimulate the mind and the curiostity of the participants.

5.             The session has 3 distinct parts :

· Presenting the topic in an nuanced way

· Allowing the participants to learn and discuss in small groups – with a ''text''

· Concluding the session in a ''general debate style'' involving all the participants/Facilitators/Speakers.

Example:Are we the ''Serving Elite''?

Student workshop

Goal: To create a unique cohesive ''serving Elite'' leadership group; for promoting Jewish identity and Israel engagement among students in Jewish communities.

Designated Participants: Student group (20 – 25) picked by facilitators as a ''serving Elite''.

Subject: First of a series: ''The Chosen People'' – what does it mean? What is the essence of your Judaism? What kind of Jew do you choose to be?What is the price and responsibility of your choice to you, your community, State of Israel, Jewish people?

Methodology: Ongoing Workshop – the facilitator creates the ''inter-active'' atmosphere through presenting complex questions on various texts which look at the meaning of the ''chosen people'' in various and complimentary ways. The students gradually become the ''guides'' and moderators of these learning and debating evenings – the responsibility moves to them as the facilitator fades into the background.


Blackboard/Charts & Felt pens


1.             Bible (Genesis 18: 16-33):

2.             ''The Borders of Power'' – Rabbi Irwin Kula:                                                             

3.             ''Do not do unto others''…. Hillel the elder, Ethics of our fathers:

4.             We need to do no more wrong that's necessary'', Martin Buber.

Timing: this is the second meeting of the group, the ice has been broken, and the time is right to start the evolution of the student group into a ''serving elite' for promoting Jewish identity and Israel engagement among the Jewish student populace of the community.

Setting: Jewish community center: students sitting round tables – drinking and eating modest fare. (Paid for by the students)

Facilitator: opening the event: Every Friday night at Kiddush – we say the blessing ''For us hast thou chosen  ...amongst all nations'': '' to be chosen'' – What does that mean:

''Chosen'' – Martin Buber wrote; ''The Old Israeli prophets were like a ''mosquito'' on the necks of ''the horses of Israel'' – but without these mosquito bites ….. The Jewish people, would not have been an eternal nation – not because they were ''let be'' – but because no one let them be in their history, because more was demanded of them – they became more''

You as students are privileged to study, learn and sharpen your minds and abilities: what will you do with this ability? You could become the Elite of your society, but will you choose to be a disconnected Elite – with airs and demands or will you be a serving Elite? People who want to take leadership decisions and actions in your community?

Tonight: – we'll start to learn and interpret a classic part of Jewish morality and the responsibility it '' demands'' from every one of us:

The workshop

Text 1:

''Abraham's argument with God threatening to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah'' Genesis 18: 16-33:  Abraham, father of the Jewish people – argues with God, unheard of in most monistic religions

 Learning process: Each participant receives the text; they split into small groups and have to answer questions - prepared by the facilitator. After discussing the questions in their small group – the whole body reconvenes, one of the group leads the discussion

Text 2: Adaptation of the article: ''The Borders of Power'' – Rabbi Irwin Kula – ''Forward'', 29.6.2006.

Learning process: Similar as the previous text. Self learning  guided by questions from the facilitator.

Text 3:'' Don't do unto others what you hate to be done to yourself''/Hillel the elder (Ethics of our fathers) and ''We need to do no more wrong that's necessary'': Martin Buber

Learning Process: The text is discussed by the whole group with the facilitator taking the role of moderator.

Prepare questions for each text: depending on the character of the group and the time allotted to the meeting, further questions can be asked.

Examples of Questions:

Text1.  Argument between Abraham and God – (Genesis 18: 16-33)

 Why does Abraham argue with the Almighty? What does he demand of ''The Judge of all mankind''? What is the meaning of Jewish morality? Is one righteous person enough to save a city? Give positive and negative points to these complex questions.

Text2. What are the ''borders of Power''? (Borders of Power – Rabbi Irwin Kula)

What has Zionism given back to the Jewish people? Why do some see the use of power as heresy? Do you agree with the 3 categories regarding the State of Israel's actions that appear in this article? Which category do you choose – explain? How do you solve the dilemma of having a Jewish sovereign state and keeping Jewish morality?

Text3. Can the sovereign Jewish State Israel – retain the moral high ground in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East? (Don't do unto others what you hate to be done to yourself'': Hillel the elder (Ethics of our fathers) and ''We need to do no more wrong that's necessary'': Martin Buber)

What does your responsibility of being Jewish demand of your relationships with others? Should there be limits to having and using power without threatening your own existence? How can Jewish morality became part of the strategy and tactics of the Jewish and Democratic State?

Reflection: at the end of each study and debate evening – each member of the group will be asked to discuss – the content and actions of his/her Jewish identity? What is his/her role in the Jewish community they live in?

The Facilitator presents the following question: Each and every one of you has the ability to choose to use your studies and personalities to become leaders in our Jewish community – you can create questions and debates that ask of people to think,  to debate, to reflect who they really are and what that ''demands'' of them in their lives – you have the ability to create curiosity regarding who we are as Jews, what is our connection to Israel, and where are we going – you can be the ''mosquitoes'' that Buber talks about, or you can be the individual who just wants a better life for him/herself? Each and every one of us has to choose who he/she really is..

The Facilitator asks the group to form a small steering committee to choose the subject and the materials for the next meeting.