Happy Israel Independence Day 2021!

CIE asked friends and experts in the field of Israel Studies to discuss the challenges and successes of the State of Israel in this past year, and to reflect on the coming year.  Below, we have compiled their thoughts and wishes.  You may broadcast this video during an assembly, use parts of it in classrooms, and/or share it with the broader community.  

In addition, we have included the individuals’ recordings with suggested activities for further exploration of themes and sorted them by age appropriateness. 

*Disclaimer: the opinions and views expressed in the video are those of the individuals, and may not be representative of CIE.  We recommend previewing this video prior to sharing it with others.  

For younger audiences (upper elementary and middle school), we suggest starting from minute 7:10.

Suggested discussion questions:

  1. As you listen to the video, what are three major challenges and successes you can identify (you may choose from one of the following areas: technology, archeology, international relations, politics, culture, peoplehood, economy, etc.)?  
  2. Based on the video, what can we look forward to in the coming year?
  3. Considering this past year, what would you recommend the theme be for this year’s Independence Day celebrations? 

Individual Videos and Activities:

Suggested activities for grades 3rd-6th:

  1. Who are Israeli cultural stars and what are their accomplishments?  Each student can present one artist, musical performer, architect, film star, dancer, etc. and present to the class.
  2. What influences Israeli culture?  How is it a reflection of its people and its geographical location?

Suggested activities for grades 7th-adults:

  1. Watch https://israeled.org/the-progression-of-israeli-culture/ and/or https://israeled.org/development-of-israeli-culture/ and consider how in each generation and  decade Israeli culture evolved to represent and influence the people and the state.  Was it deliberately constructed or organically evolved?  
  2. Which Israeli culture icons today are known for supporting causes and organizations that promote social action or cultural improvement?  Give specific examples and describe their influence on Israeli society and beyond.  
  3. How have different visions of Zionism throughout time been portrayed in music?  Visit https://israeled.org/zionism-in-israeli-music-activities-ideas-and-links-to-resources/ for resources and activities.  
  4. Create your own playlist using helpful links from https://israeled.org/israeli-hebrew-music-collections-easily-accessible/ 

Suggested activities for grades 3rd-adults:

  1. What are the experiences, customs, rituals, texts, values and beliefs that unite Jews around the world?  How did these help keep us united even when we were separated by the pandemic?
  2. If you could visit Israel after the pandemic, where would you want to go and what would you want to experience?  Explain your choices.
  3. Professor Gil Troy suggests we celebrate in ways that are surprising and bring us joy, such as eating ice cream for breakfast.  What suggestions do you have that should be included in how we celebrate Israel Independence Day and why do you think these would be appropriate as we celebrate our freedom and sovereignty in the Jewish homeland?

Suggested activities for grades 3rd-adults:

  1. What was discovered in the archeological dig Rabbi Buckman is describing as nearly in his backyard and what is the significance of the find?  What does this tell us about Jewish culture, economy and politics in the distant past?  
  2. In what way does the anecdote about the “punishment” for trespassing in the dig site represent Israeli culture?  Do you have an anecdote like this to share?  What does it say about how Israelis behave and what brings us together in sometimes strange or funny circumstances?
  3. Discuss: Do you agree with Rabbi Buckman’s hope that the close ties that are being established through the Abraham Accords will eventually influence the Israeli-Palestinian relationship?  What would need to take place to bring about negotiations for peace in that arena?  See here for a timeline of the Arab Israeli conflict: https://israeled.org/israel-and-arab-israeli-conflict-timeline-1800s-to-the-present/ 
  4. In Rabbi Buckman’s hopes for the future of the State of Israel, he cites phrases from the Declaration of Independence.  How does this founding document shape the future character and role of the state?  Click here for an activity on analyzing this document: https://israeled.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/DOI-activities-for-2020.pdf
  5. Do you think the State of Israel is currently living up to its founding ideals and values?  What would you wish for the state for the future and what actions could you take to help that vision become a reality?  

Suggested activities for grades 6th-adults: 

  1. Israel’s Peace Agreements – For resources, documents and background information about the Abraham Accords, please visit https://israeled.org/?s=Abraham+Accord.  
  2. How are the agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco different from the previous peace agreements between Israel and Egypt (1979) and between Israel and Jordan (1994)?  
  3. How do peace agreements with Arab countries impact Israel’s security, politics, economy, and culture?  
  4. Watch a video about the musical collaboration between Israel and Morocco, describing how peace can be supported by music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uT9d88Pt7g  and the video of Moroccan Israelis celebrating the new peace deal here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzoK8cDL-F4 .    What is unique about Israel’s relationship with Morocco and how does the history of the Moroccan Jews in Israel play an important role in sustaining this relationship?
  5. Watch the song performed by UAE artist Waleed Aljasim and Israeli artist Elkana Marziano https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R0TyCbKaIU and consider how such collaborations and messages of peace can influence the relationship between the two peoples in the future.
  6. Read https://www.israel21c.org/israel-uae-give-wing-to-preservation-of-rare-desert-bird/ and other articles found here: https://www.israel21c.org/page/2/?s=UAE and describe how these recent peace agreements may not only help Israel and these four Arab countries, but also the environment and the world.  

Suggested activities for grades 6th-adults:

  1. Jan Jaben-Eilon reflects with pride on her own family’s connection to Israel’s history and securing statehood.  What is your family’s connection to Jewish history and/or to the State of Israel?  How does this connection make you feel?
  2. Why is the news in Israel relevant to American Jews?  Why should we follow it regularly and cover it in local news outlets?  Which topics do you think are important to cover?
  3. She also reflects on the issues that divide American Jews and Israelis and the values and texts that bind us together.  What are the issues that can be divisive and what are those that bring us closer?  
  4. Should U.S. Jews get involved in Israeli issues?  If so, what do you think are the best ways to be involved?  Watch https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6antdy and identify the different viewpoints.  
  5. Jan Jaben-Eilon talks about being critical of Israel’s policies out of love.  When Jews in America criticize Israeli policies or actions, what are some considerations and challenges you think should be addressed in order to do so effectively and at the same time to demonstrate care and support for the State of Israel?  
  6. As a journalist, one must question sources of information and attempt to capture issues and events with some objectivity.  Discuss the following:
    1. How do you as a learner and a consumer of information ensure that your sources are reliable?  
    2. Can you tell the difference between a biased narrative and a history?  If so, how?  
    3. How do you incorporate historical context and different perspectives into your understanding of an issue or an event?  
    4. What is the difference between the roles of journalists and historians?  Which would you prefer?  

Suggested activities for grades 6th-adults:

  1. Keren Rosenberg discussed the challenges and successes of Israel’s handling of the pandemic.  How are these similar and different to the response to the pandemic in your community?
  2. Israel has not only become the global leader in providing vaccinations per capita but continues to use its strengths as a Start-Up Nation to tackle the pandemic with creativity and ingenuity.  Read the following article and select one innovation that you can present to your peers: https://israeled.org/startup-israel-tackles-coronavirus-with-ingenuity-and-chutzpah/ 
  3. Why is Israel referred to as the Start-Up Nation? Watch the following video: https://israeled.org/technology/  How has a historic investment in Israel’s brainpower helped it to emerge from economic hardships in its first decade and how has it helped it overcome many challenges, from water scarcity to the pandemic?
  4. Israel has universal healthcare, and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory.  See Israel’s National Health Insurance Law of 1995 for more information about the insurance organizations, in Hebrew the Kupot Holim (sick funds).   How did this system, which in 2020 ranked third in the world help Israel effectively combat the Coronavirus, where other countries’ health systems did not?   Read https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20210312.994210/full/ and https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-israel-delivered-the-worlds-fastest-vaccine-rollout-11616080968 and watch the video https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/07/israels-covid-vaccine-rollout-is-the-fastest-in-the-world.html to learn more.

Suggested activities for grades 6th-adults:

  1. Russell Robinson gives an example of how the value of Klal Yisrael Arevim Zeh LeZeh (all of Israel is responsible for one another) brings us together and strengthens us in times of need.  When have you seen this value in action or participated in social action that supported other Jews and Israelis?  What opportunities are there for you to participate in this value in a way that is meaningful to you? 
  2. Mental health has been a challenge for the world during the last year of quarantining.  Israel offered its support services beyond its borders to help because its people have built up a network of services to deal with tough circumstances.  Which of these are mentioned in the video?  For what other tough experiences might Israelis want support of this kind and which organizations offer these services?  
  3. Russell Robinson uses reference to biblical texts to emphasize the connection of the Jewish people to one another and to the Land of Israel.  Can you listen and find those references, and identify where they came from?  Why would he use these in his Independence Day talk?  What are some other significant texts in Jewish history (ancient and modern) that highlight our connections to one another and to the land?   
  4. Yehudah Amichai wrote a poem called Tourists (from the book Poems of Love and Jerusalem).  The text can be found on Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs here: https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFA-Archive/2003/Pages/Yehuda%20Amichai-%20Poems.aspx.  How does Amichai’s message and Robinson’s message align with the goals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?  How can your upcoming trip to Israel reflect that you are not a tourist and what experiences will you seek to have once there to prioritize people to people connections?
  5. Robinson states that “Israel has grown up and we have grown up.”  What lessons have Israel and the Jewish people learned after 73 years of sovereignty?  Compare Israel’s progress in 73 years of independence to that of the U.S. 73 years after independence was gained.  Was the U.S. finished in 1849?  Is it finished now?  What is the U.S. striving for and what is Israel striving for?  Compare and contrast the two nations as they strive toward a better future.   

Suggested activities for grades 8th– adults:

  1. How did the visionary leadership of David Ben Gurion and others help to transform Israel’s economy from an agricultural one to a high tech one?  How might the scarcity of Israel’s natural resources have influenced this decision?  Watch https://israeled.org/technology/   for more information.
  2. How has Israel’s high tech and innovation economy helped it continue to thrive in the past, even in times of war and conflict?  Read excerpts from Saul Singer and Dan Senior’s “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.”
  3. Liran Antebi lists different ways Israel is a world leader despite its small population.  Research and provide examples of technology and innovation that make Israel a leader in this field and present to your peers.  You may use articles from www.Israel21C.org to help you.
  4. Israel may hold an advantage with artificial intelligence technology, but other countries are competitors.  What can the State of Israel do to maintain its competitive edge?   Where does AI impact your life today?
  5. How do Israel’s advances help keep the state steps ahead of potential threats to its security and stability?  Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_89139WKho about Israel’s Iron Dome and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSMWqsX84R4 about Israel’s Carmel tank program.  Can you think of reasons Israel may want to publicize its capabilities and why it may want to keep some secret?  

Suggested activities for grades 8th-adults:

  1. According to Rabbi Berg normalized relations with Israel’s neighbors is a significant accomplishment.  He also shares that being the most vaccinated country is another success.   Can you research and list at least three other major accomplishments of the State of Israel in the last year?
  2. Rabbi Berg describes a recent Supreme Court decision allowing converts to non-Orthodox Judaism to claim citizenship as a success for pluralism.  The question of who is a Jew and who should decide has long been debated.  How do matters of halakhah (Jewish law) and democratic principles and values sometimes clash in daily life in Israel?  Find examples from the headlines of newspapers from the last few months that highlight the issues (IDF exemptions, Women of the Wall, marriage and divorce law, LGBTQ rights, commerce and transportation on Shabbat, etc.) and present them to your peers.  What issues remain unresolved?  Does the Nation State Law of 2018 help guide the future of the state in any of these matters?  See here for the text of the law: https://knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/BasicLawNationState.pdf 
  3. Discuss:  Should Israel become more pluralistic and inclusive of secular and non-Orthodox Jews or is there a danger to diluting the Jewish character of the state?  How have different waves of Aliyah, such as the Russian immigration waves of the 1990s and the Ethiopian waves of immigration since the 1970s challenged the idea of who is a Jew?  Can you propose a bill or a law that would help Israel better define these matters going forward?  Who might your language offend and who might support it in the Knesset?  
  4. Explore Israel’s elections and democratic system.  Click here for videos, resources and activities about Israel’s democracy: https://israeled.org/the-israeli-political-system/  Why do parties with fewer seats than other parties have power and influence over the legislative and executive branches?  Give examples from daily life in Israel.  

Suggested activities for grades 6th-adults:

  1. Israel has universal healthcare, and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory.  See Israel’s National Health Insurance Law of 1995 for more information about the insurance organizations, in Hebrew the Kupot Holim (sick funds).   How did this system, which in 2020 ranked third in the world help Israel effectively combat the Coronavirus, where other countries’ health systems did not?   Read https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20210312.994210/full/ and https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-israel-delivered-the-worlds-fastest-vaccine-rollout-11616080968 and watch the video https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/07/israels-covid-vaccine-rollout-is-the-fastest-in-the-world.html to learn more.
  2. While Israel’s overall economy remained resilient during the pandemic, largely due to its innovation and technology sectors, many businesses suffered.  Which sectors were hit hardest and what can be done to revitalize those? Read https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-economy-gdp/israeli-economy-dips-2-4-in-2020-but-covid-hit-less-than-in-oecd-idUSKBN2AG14I and https://www.reuters.com/article/israel-economy-gdp-int/israel-economy-strikes-back-in-third-quarter-after-first-lockdown-lifted-idUSKBN27W182  
  3.  David Makovsky speaks about societal cleavages and rifts between segments of society that were highlighted during the pandemic.  Why were some segments of Israeli society hit harder than others with Covid?  Why was enforcement of government policies different from one location to another?  What larger issues does this highlight about Israeli society and can these be resolved?
  4. Consider the results of the 4th election: Has the country moved toward political stability?  Why is the formation of a governing coalition difficult and what has prevented former coalitions from governing for the length of a 4- year term?  See https://israeled.org/elections/
  5.  David Makovsky also speaks about normalization with Arab countries in the region and the positive impacts for Israel’s security, economy and peoplehood.  Why did each of the Arab countries sign on to the Abraham Accords?  What were their national interests?  Based on these reasons and interests, which countries do you suspect will consider signing on in the near future and why?  See https://israeled.org/timeline/us-president-trump-israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-emirati-minister-bin-zayed-and-bahraini-minister-al-zayani-sign-the-abraham-accords-at-the-white-house/