Using Israel Music to Navigate the Aftermath of October 7: A Guide for Jewish Educators

This article was originally published in Prizmah’s Kaleidoscope newsletter.

In the aftermath of October 7, Jewish educators in the Diaspora have been working hard to bridge the gap for our students so that they can understand what’s happening in Israel and what Israeli society is going through. It’s been an unprecedented time in modern Jewish history, and these are unchartered waters for so many of us.

Educators have employed various strategies to accomplish this essential task. Some have traveled to Israel on educator missions so that they can bear witness and share their experiences with their students. Many have tapped into excellent new resources created by organizations like Unpacked for Educators and others.

I’d love to share another strategy that is engaging, effective and meaningful, which can give our students inside access to the ocean of emotions that Israeli society is swimming in right now.

Using Israeli music in the classroom, especially music written since October 7, gives our students a tangible way of connecting to the diversity of feelings being felt within Israeli society today. The national emotions these days are nuanced and complex, and the Israeli music being produced reflects that. Consider the following suggestions to effectively engage your students and bring Israeli music to life in the classroom.

Introduction to Contemporary Israeli Music

Start by introducing your students to the vibrant world of contemporary Israeli music. Explain that these songs, emerging in response to recent events, serve as a mirror to the nation’s soul, reflecting a spectrum of feelings from despair to hope, unity to division. Use this opportunity to discuss the role of art in society and how music can be a barometer of public sentiment.

Song Selection and Analysis

Select a song or multiple songs from this list, ensuring a mix that represents various themes such as hope, unity, responsibility, and the aftermath of conflict. For example, Eyal Golan’s “Am Yisrael Chai” serves as a unifying anthem, emphasizing resilience and faith, while “Zeh Aleinu” by Subliminal and Hatzel underscores a call to action and defense.

Introduce each song by reading through the lyrics in both Hebrew and English (depending on your class). This bilingual approach can aid in linguistic understanding and deepen the emotional connection. Then, play the music video of the song, encouraging students to listen intently to the melody, words, and the emotions they evoke.

Caution: some of the songs have explicit lyrics and are indicated as such in the resource itself. Censor as needed.

Engaging Students with Music

Utilize the student prompts provided to encourage active participation. These prompts include questions for reflection, such as, “What messages and themes do you think the song is trying to convey?” or “How does this song reflect the current mood in Israel?” Consider dividing students into groups, assigning each a different song, and having them present their analyses to the class.

Creating a Personal Connection

Ask students to express their feelings and thoughts by creating their own piece of art or writing in response to the music. This could be a poem, a letter, a song, or a visual artwork. This personal connection not only helps students process their feelings but also makes the learning experience more memorable and meaningful.

Expanding the Conversation

Encourage students to share the music and their insights with family and friends. Suggest they discuss the songs during family gatherings or Shabbat dinner. This not only reinforces the lesson but also helps increase awareness and connection within the school community.

Utilizing Israeli music as an educational tool allows us to explore the depths of human emotion and the complex dynamics of Israeli society in a way that is both engaging and profound. Through this approach, we not only enhance our students’ understanding of current events in Israel but also foster a deeper connection with Israeli culture and society.

Let this be an opportunity for our students to explore, question, and connect, turning the classroom into a space of shared human experience and deep connection to Israel, especially during this unprecedented time.

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