Who Are Israelis, Really?

What you may not know about the vibrant society that makes up Israel is that day-to-day life in Israel is so much more than the narrow keyhole view that much of the world understands! Israel is a democratic state in the Middle East made up of Jews and non-Jews from the four corners of the earth. Meet the culturally diverse faces of Israel in this video. 

Enduring understandings are available in the PDF version of the educational resources.

  1. Based on your preconceived notions, what’s the most surprising number on the chart below describing the makeup of Israeli society (green represents non-Jews making up one fifth of all Israelis)?
  2. What are the implications of reducing conversations surrounding Israel to the conflict with the Palestinians? Why is it important to understand the accomplishments and diversity within Israeli society?
  3. The purpose of Zionism was never to participate in a seemingly endless conflict. Instead, early Zionist thinkers presented three primary ways of viewing the purpose of a Jewish state:
    • To create a safe haven for Jews around the world, i.e. to protect against antisemitism
    • To become a nation among nations, i.e. to become like any other nation
    • To become an exceptional nation, i.e. a light unto nations
      Which of the three reasons listed above do you most identify with? What do you think is the most important purpose of the modern Jewish state? What reason would you add to the list?
  4. When learning and speaking about Israel, why is it important to shine the spotlight on the people of Israel rather than the country itself? What difference does it make in understanding Israel when we speak about the people and their accomplishments rather than the state and its history?
  5. Watch this video about Israeli politics. What does it say about Israeli society that there are so many different political parties and so much diversity of opinion?
  1. Engage in a group brainstorm to come up with the top five misconceptions that people have about Israel. Why do you think people perceive Israel in this way? Are these misconceptions rooted in truth or are they unrelated to the reality on the ground? How can speaking about the Israeli people change these misconceptions?
  2. There are no shortage of fascinating disagreements that exist within Israeli society, unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Choose one of the issues below, research it and present both sides of the issue to your classmates:
  3. Koolulam is a social musical initiative which aims to empower different communities and strengthen society. Choose one or more of the Koolulam videos below and watch them. Afterwards, in a personal response, reflect on why you think Koolulam does such a good job of promoting diversity and encouraging unity and what the rest of society can learn from it:
  4. Play our Kahoot about “Who Are Israelis, Really?”
  1. What are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Israel? What are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Israelis? Are the three items the same or different? Reflect on the three items you came up with and why you thought of them first.
  2. Which of the following things about Israel make you most proud? Feel free to add another reason.
  3. What role does Israel play within your own Jewish identity?
  4. What does it mean for Israel to be a melting pot versus a mosaic; a melting pot in which multiple identities merge into one identity or a mosaic in which fragments of different identities produce one beautiful tapestry? Which of the two do you think Israel is and which do you think Israel should be?

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