Unpacking the war with your students: Helping your students process what’s going on in Israel

Five helpful framings for teaching about this moment

1. The importance of Israel education

First, make sure you feel properly educated. We’ve got you covered. Use these resources to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish and Israeli history. Remember, it’s okay if you don’t know all the answers—you don’t need to be an expert to facilitate a meaningful conversation.

Zoom in. Embrace inquiry-based learning when discussing what is going on in Israel today. Ask students what they know, clarify misconceptions, and discover what they wish to learn.

Zoom out. Offer a broader context beyond the events of yesterday or today. Explore: What is Hamas? Where is Gaza? Who are these Israeli communities under attack? How is this a watershed moment in Israeli and Jewish history?

Provide moral clarity. Massacring and raping civilians, kipnapping children and elderly, is always wrong—full stop. It doesn’t matter how anyone feels about Israel’s governmental policies. We need to be able to condemn this without disclaimers.

2. Using social media responsibly

Take conversations offline. If someone you know is posting hurtful content on social media, have an in-person or IRL conversation with them. Before engaging with them, ask yourself: Are they posting in good faith?

Don’t respond in the heat of the moment. Social media moves FAST. Before reacting to something you see online; calm down and respond rationally.

Ask: Is this a reputable source? Whenever consuming media, we should always ask ourselves: Where is this information coming from? Is the source trustworthy? What is their agenda? What might their biases be?

Use your platform to educate. Your voice matters! Share educational and responsible content on your social media. If you want to know what that could look like, or if you are looking for content to share, follow @jewishunpacked on Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube.

Preserve your mental health. Be cautious consuming graphic images and videos. Take breaks from social media and avoid doom scrolling. You may feel compelled to stay perpetually informed or connected, but you don’t need to get burnt out, exhausted, or numb.

Consider deleting social apps. Israeli schools are urging students to delete apps like Instagram and Tiktok out of concern that Hamas may use social media to broadcast increasingly disturbing videos and images as part of psychological warfare. It may not be possible to curate a feed to avoid these videos. Deleting the apps temporarily is recommended.

3. Social-emotional support

Put your own mask on first. In the classroom and beyond, remember the ‘oxygen mask’ principle: in order to care for others, we need to care for ourselves. Take time for yourself to process, to grieve, and to restore before facilitating heavy conversations.

Create space for reflection. Encourage students to articulate their emotions, validate their fears, and share experiences involving friends and family. Encourage your students to speak to someone if they become overwhelmed.

Be mindful of your audience. Consider that a student who has never visited Israel may process information differently than one with family living in Israel or a relative serving in the IDF so be sure to differentiate.

Balance topicality with normalcy. While it is important to address the current moment in Israel, remember that maintaining a sense of stability is also helpful. Strike a balance—like offering a regular class with a brief introduction on current events.

Convey genuine, thoughtful messaging. Avoid offering oversimplified reassurances like “everything will be alright.” Instead, you can frame these events as moments of resolve, resilience, strength, unity, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

4. Taking action: What can we do?

Reach out to people in Israel. Unity is one of our greatest strengths. Letting people in Israel know that you are thinking of them, that you care for them, that you support them, is immensely powerful.

Reach out to Israelis in your community. Can you help out a family in which a parent was called up for duty by babysitting or providing meals? Can you show support for those who have family in Israel?

Check in with one another. We are all not okay—and that’s okay. Acknowledging each other’s pain and genuinely connecting with one another recognizes our struggles without minimizing them.

Send supplies and financial support. Israelis and Israeli institutions need your support. Read this article to learn about 11 organizations to consider supporting.

Tell Israel’s story on social media. Spread awareness and positivity, share stories of resilience and unity, highlight and amplify Israeli voices.

Show solidarity, publicly. It takes great courage to speak up when conflict in Israel flares up. Be courageous. Speak up. Show up. Show solidarity with Israel—at community rallies, on social media, in public forums.

5. Practical helpful resources

Unpacked for Educators, Israel at War (list of our most relevant UED resources)

Student Prompts

Processing the news: Give your students the opportunity to reflect on this major moment in Jewish and Israeli history by asking the following questions:

  • Do you have family or friends living in Israel or serving in the IDF? What have you heard?
  • Is there anything you would like to share with the group or process aloud?
  • Give your students time to feel whatever they are feeling in this difficult moment.

Supporting Israel from afar: In the wake of this attack, Israeli society rushed to support the IDF, the victims of this terror, and those grieving. For those of us outside of Israel, it can be heartbreaking to watch from afar. Read this article and watch this interview clip about some ways that the global community can support people in Israel.

  • Consider various ways we can support captured soldiers or civilians, such as through prayer, participating in activism/rallies, writing letters to their families, or amplifying their stories on social media.
  • Choose one action from this list that resonates with you the most.
  • Reflect: Why did this particular action stand out to you? In what ways do you believe it can make a real difference?

Teaching with podcasts: Listen to this podcast episode from Soulful Jewish Living, where Rabbi Josh Feigelson gives us tools for how to deal with overwhelming emotions during the October 2023 Hamas-Israel war.

  • Podcast listening party: Facilitate a podcast listening party with your students (using this PDF) to engage your students with the content.
  • Flipping the classroom: Flip your classroom and assign your students to listen to the podcast episode in advance of your class or session.
  • Using transcripts: Assign the transcript of the podcast to your students. Have them highlight 2 points they agreed with in yellow and 2 points that they disagreed with in blue. Then, have students share what they highlighted in small groups.
  • Reflect on the following quote: “Fear is real, and we shouldn’t try to hide or mask it. We can’t honestly control whether we’re afraid or not. But we do have some control over how we respond to our fear — we can make ourselves more afraid, more isolated, more closed in; or we can try to respond to fear with love, with connection, with expansiveness.” How can your community respond to the fear we are experiencing in this moment with love, connection, and expansiveness?

Responses from the international community: Reflect on the different responses from the international community.

  • How did it feel to read these responses?
  • How did it feel to see the images of support, such as the darkening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the projection of the Israeli flag on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin?
  • Did your country put out a statement?
    • What did they say?
    • How did it feel to read?
    • Would you change anything from the statement they put out?

Bibi’s speech to Israeli soldiers: Watch this video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, where he addressed the people of Israel in response to this attack. In the statement, Netanyahu voiced support for the families who lost loved ones and whose family members are held captive in Gaza, the IDF and security forces, and medical workers and volunteers. In his speech, Netanyahu said:

“To our beloved IDF soldiers, police officers and security forces personnel, remember that you are the continuation of the heroes of the Jewish people, of Joshua, Judah Maccabee and the heroes of 1948 and of all of Israel’s wars. You are now fighting for the home and future of us all. We are all with you. We all love you. We all salute you.”

Reflect on this statement:

  • How did it make you feel to hear or read this?
  • What kind of message is he trying to send?
  • What is your reaction to this statement?

Using social media to support Israel: Israelis and the international community alike are being informed about the realities of this moment through social media. Watch updates and posts from social media personalities like Noa Tishby, Hen Mazzig, and Yirmiyahu Danzig.

  • How do these influencers use their platforms? To inform? To support? To inspire?
  • How do you see others using their social media platforms to spread information or awareness for what is happening in Israel?
  • How can you use your platform to show support for Israel?
  • Note: Use social media responsibly. Remind your students to be mindful of their own mental health when following the news on social media. Be aware that some footage can be graphic and should be avoided, and that students should take breaks when needed.
Kveller, How to Talk to Kids About What’s Happening in Israel Right Now (article)
The Jewish Educator Portal, What To Tell Kids When The News Is Scary (podcast)
The Jewish Educator Portal, Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (list of resources)
Ohel, Resources for Dealing with Trauma (article)
Dr. Aliza Pressman, Talking to Kids About Israel and Hamas (video on the importance of moral clarity and a dialectic approach to facilitating multi-sided conversations about Israel)
Translation: Marc Fein, 7 healthy psychological tips for managing yourself in the current situation in Israel (article)

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