Miriam Peretz: “Israel is not built through suffering – but by continuous giving”

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Miriam Peretz, an educator who lost two sons in battle, talks about her personal experience and the need for Israeli and Jewish unity at the 2018 Israel Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem. After watching the video, the prompts below can be used to engage students in thought-provoking discussion about what they have learned.

  1. At a time when Israel feels more divided than ever in its history, Peretz shares her belief that “much more unites us than divides us,” because “no one side has a monopoly on loving this land as this is the home of all of us.” Think of the Arab, Haredi, Modern Orthodox or Secular Israelis you have met, and share four beliefs you think they would all share.
  2. The speech of Miriam Peretz about the importance of respecting diversity shares much in common with that shared by MK Tehilla Friedman. Utilize the Unpacked for Educators video and resources about Friedman’s speech and write three similarities you found in both speeches.
  3. As a religious and Mizrachi Israeli, Miriam Peretz is in many ways the opposite of the Ashkenazi, secular, peace activist and author David Grossman in her social and political outlook. As Peretz gave her speech, Grossman was sitting on the same stage, awaiting to receive the Israel Prize for Literature.In a direct reference to Grossman, who lost his son Uri in the 2006 Lebanon War, Peretz acknowledged that “among the prizewinners are those who have experienced loss but whose spirits nevertheless remained unbroken.” She added that these bereaved parents, perhaps even those who attended the controversial joint memorial on Yom Hazikaron, “continue to work within society, each in their own way, to make it better.”Speaking of their motivations she said, “We all desire life, we all desire peace. This is a home to all of us and no one has a monopoly on love for the people and for the homeland.” She concluded by describing Israel as a puzzle where there needs to be space for every color in the rainbow. “If one piece is missing, the picture that emerges is not complete. So I am not willing to give up on any part of my people.”What lesson do you think Peretz was trying to teach Israelis here about how we should relate to those in our country or community that don’t share our religious or political outlook?
  1. In acknowledging her parents Yaakov and Ita Ohayon who were born at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and never learned to read and write, Peretz shared that the only four words they knew in Hebrew were, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), Shalom (Peace), Torah (Scripture), Toda (Thank You). Create four canvas posters with these four words in Hebrew and English, incorporating quotes from the speech of Miriam Peretz, highlighting what these words meant to her parents.
  2. Peretz quotes the words of the song Mi Haish (Who is the man) from the Psalms. In what way do the lyrics of this song tie into her dream of how Israelis should behave to one another? Write an “I have a dream speech” about a vision for Israel in the future that you would imagine Miriam Peretz would share.
  3. Peretz speaks about how she became exposed to Israeli society through a radio her father once received as a street sweeper. Every Wednesday, she would listen to the Effi Netzer’s program and write down the words to his songs as she heard them played on the radio. These included songs like Shuv Lo Nelech and Shir Ha’Emek. Listen to these songs on YouTube and share with a friend what you learnt about the geography of Israel through the lyrics. Alternatively, share the lyrics of an Israeli song that has impacted you and tell your peers why you find it meaningful.

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