2019: Year in Review

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Let’s take a look back at 2019. 

From elections to inventions to sirens to… elections, there wasn’t a dull moment in Israel in 2019. Each week we uncovered the top stories, excavated the ideas, and explored them for you. We’ve tried to break down the right-wing/left-wing echo chambers by unpacking the diverse perspectives on these topics from within Israel, followed by suggesting ways to talk about these issues with your students, your friends, or your colleagues. 

Our Unpacked for Educators (UED) team combed through every Weekly from this past year and distilled the year into five major themes… drum roll…:

  1. Israeli Culture and Innovation
  2. Politics
  3. Israel and World Jewry
  4. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  5. Israel’s Big Debates

We encourage you to look through this Weekly and create conversations around them.

Here at Unpacked for Educators we appreciate your readership, feedback, and thoughtfulness. 

**If you had trouble replying to this email in the past, the issue has been fixed and we would love to hear from you!** So, please reply to this email to let me know your thoughts on this Weekly and any Weekly from the past year. 

Here’s to a bright 2020, filled with respectful dialogue and deep connection to Israel and the Jewish people.

Warmly,

Noam

Israeli Culture and Innovation 

Israeli culture and innovation are booming, and many are starting to notice. From entertainment – its Eurovision contest was ranked the best of the decade – to innovation – 9 out of TIME magazine’s 100 inventions of 2019 are Israeli – to sports – Israeli judoka Sagi Muki took the gold at the World Judo Championship in Tokyo. Israeli TV shows and films have become exceedingly popular on major media sites like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon. If one of the goals of Israel as a Jewish state was to be exceptional, then in many ways, it is far exceeding expectations. 

Politics

2019 was a “year of elections” in Israel, and there’s still more to come! U.S. President Trump quipped, “They keep having elections and nobody is elected,” and he’s not wrong. We broke it all down, from how the Israeli parliamentary system works, to the ad campaigns and far-right concerns of the April elections, to the players and parties of the second round of elections in September. Stay tuned for “Elections 3.0” in March 2020.

Israel was also on the U.S. political stage, as the U.S. recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, declared Israeli settlements not-illegal, organized the June Bahrain conference, and prompted Israel to bar entry to two congresswomen. Is Israel becoming a wedge issue in U.S. politics? Time will tell.

Israel and World Jewry

Israeli Jews and Jews from across the world are facing some important questions about their relationship. Is Israel responsible for Jews around the world? Does being Jewish automatically include loyalty to Israel? What should Israel’s response be, if anything, to anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world? And most recently, is Judaism a religion, a nation, or both?

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Of course, life in Israel is shadowed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (though as we see, there’s so much more going on!). This year, there have been episodes of sirens and terror. Big political issues have been raised, like the status of the West Bank, Settlements, and the Temple Mount. We’ve asked tough questions like if and how to teach the “Nakba” and questions surrounding Jewish terrorism. Through it all, one goal has remained at the forefront of our minds: to teach these topics with empathy and compassion toward all innocent people.

Israel’s Big Debates

Israelis love a good heated debate. Many hot topics are those about religion and state (and, perhaps, if there weren’t so much focus on the conflict and political climate, these issues would be front and center in the question of what a Jewish state should look like): public transportation and entertainment on Shabbat, gay pride parades, and Israel in comparison to religiously extreme countries. The country was abuzz with questions about the Ethiopian community in July and self-reflection at the time of the twentieth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in November.

Unpacked for Educators 2019

2019 was a big year at Unpacked for Educators. It was the first full year with our new name and branding (formerly Jerusalem U Media Lab), with our new, easy-to-use website reaching more than 23,000 unique users. Our Weekly email reaches more than 1,500 educators and Jewish leaders each week. Through our high school programming this year, we reached over 26,000 high school students around the globe. The History of Israel: Explained video series, which is complete with educator resources on our website, hit 1.2 million views and is still climbing. As we continuously expand our audience, we are on track to do even more in 2020! 

Why do we share this all with you? You’re part of the “Weekly family”! Spread the word and help ensure others have this resource to break down the silos and echo chambers we often box ourselves into with hot button topics like Israel. Listen to others. Learn from others. Share your own perspectives confidently and humbly. This Weekly will help you with that! 

Practical Classroom (or Dinner Table) Tips

  1. Choose one of the fascinating topics above that you may not have gotten to this year and use the discussion questions and classroom tips included. They are evergreen and can be used year-round.
  2. Check out Israel’s many innovations from 2019 and have each student present a different one and why they believe it will impact the world.
  3. Read through our various “Weeklys” about Israeli politics to prepare yourself and your students for Israel’s next election, to be held on March 2. Don’t miss our upcoming Weekly on the 2020 Elections with ready-made educational resources.
  4. Put your students into groups and give them the opportunity to choose any topic from 2019 that interests them and to present on that topic.
  5. With the rise in global anti-Semitism, use our Weekly on anti-Semitism to help guide your thinking and planning when educating your students on this important topic.

Noam Weissman

Dr. Noam Weissman is the Senior Vice President of Education at Jerusalem U. Noam holds a doctorate in educational psychology from USC with a focus on curriculum design. Before joining Jerusalem U, he was the principal of Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, where he spent 9 years actively engaging and empowering students to find meaning in their Jewish learning.

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