The aim of this activity is to sensitize the students to issues connected with the Jewish character of Israel as a Jewish state, and to help them develop and defend their own opinions.

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

  • Students should take out the diary entries they made for one of the six portraits that they received in the activity ‘Creating a Jewish State For All.’ At that point they were asked to reflect on the following issues:
    1. Why do I want to live in a Jewish state?
    2. What do I hope to find there?
    3. What do Iwant 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?
  • Ask them to write a letter of response to the diary entry that they have. In the course of this, they should be sure to give their own answers to the seven questions.
  • Now divide the students into groups of six so that each immigrant is represented; after giving a brief summary of ‘their’ immigrant’s viewpoint, they should read/explain the response that they have written for themselves.
  • A few people should now present their opinion to the whole class. This should open up a class discussion in which the students start to formulate a way of deciding on the desirable direction for the one Jewish state among the nations.

    The assumption is that there will be different opinions within the class. If the class is unanimous, remind them that they are not representative of the whole Jewish world, and ask some of the representatives of characters who are likely to hold different positions to represent ‘their’ character. Remind the group that they have to try to come up with the correct system for the only Jewish state in the world, a state that will represent all Jews. Presumably, this will heat up the discussion.

  • After about ten minutes, stop the discussion and discuss with the group which factors are crucial to the real issues.

    Mention the fact that different groups of Jews have had different cultural experiences and understand the word ‘Jewish’ in different ways.

  • There are those for whom Halacha is essential to their own lives. For some of these people, a Jewish state should be an extension of their own views of Jewish life and should therefore be halachic.
  • For others of this sector, despite the personal importance of Halacha in their own lives, they realize that it is difficult to impose it on those who do not want it in national life.
  • For many, the Halacha plays no part in their own life and, by extension, has no place in a national life.
  • There are others again for whom Halacha has no authority in their life but who recognize that it should have some place in a Jewish state. They want a Jewish state, not just a state for Jews.
  • Others very much want a Jewish state but deny that Jewish culture is necessarily based on Halacha.
  • Raise the question of the role of the democracy in making the final decision of the character of the state. Should the majority decide? What are the benefits of this approach? What are the disadvantages?
  • Explain the three basic approaches that developed within the Zionist movement regarding ways of dealing with this issue. Discuss them briefly. Which approach gets most support from the class? Why? Are there minority opinions in the class? Should they be overruled? Why? Why not?
  • Explain why the third opinion became accepted, and briefly explain the ‘status quo’ idea and document.
  • Finally ask each person to write a personal reflection on their reactions to the status quo document as the basis for the publicly Jewish character of the Jewish State.




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11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0