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Classroom Activities that Connect Children to Israel

American support for Israel is crucial for the welfare of the Jewish state. However, a Gallup Poll from 2019 found that support for Israel among Americans was at its lowest point in a decade.

In light of this, it becomes imperative for parents and educators to instill in our children a deep understanding of Israel's significance. We need to communicate that the continued existence of the Jewish people hinges on prioritizing Israel. By engaging children in meaningful and stimulating ways, we can inspire them to become enthusiastic advocates for Israel and embrace their roles as future Zionists.

Here are some effective classroom activities for connecting children in the diaspora to the land of Israel.

Take a Mock Trip to Israel

Ask your students to rearrange their classroom furniture into an airplane with two pilots and two flight attendants leading the way. Students can role-play as flight attendants by checking passports, with pilots announcing take-off. Upon landing, they will begin their virtual tour.

Virtual tours offer an excellent way to transport children to Israel's iconic landmarks and historical sites. Utilize resources like Google Earth to create a virtual tour itinerary. Take them to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, float in the Dead Sea, explore the ancient city of Masada, or take a stroll through the vibrant streets of Tel Aviv.

Provide children with a passport template like this one to personalize with their name, a self-portrait, and a space to reflect on the destinations, where they'll document their observations and illustrations in their passports.

Create Connections with Pen Pals

Establishing a pen pal program provides children with a wonderful opportunity to learn about Israel personally and meaningfully. Whether through exchanging letters, emails, or video chats, connecting with Israeli children allows children in the diaspora to gain unique insights into growing up in the Jewish homeland.

This first-hand interaction enables them to explore the similarities and differences between their own lives and those of their Israeli pen pals. Discussions about daily routines, traditions, hobbies, and aspirations provide a deeper understanding of Israeli culture. Through these exchanges, children may discover surprising aspects, such as Sunday being a school day or how secular Israeli children experience Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv.

Moreover, the pen pal program can inspire a genuine curiosity about Israel's geography and cultural heritage. By creating human connections through a pen pal program, they'll have the opportunity to learn about what it's like to grow up in the Jewish homeland and perhaps make a new friend for life!

If you are interested in initiating a pen pal program, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Contact your local Jewish Federation, synagogue, or other Jewish organization like the Global Jewish Pen Pal Program to see if they have any existing partnerships or contacts with schools or community organizations in Israel.

  • Once you find a partner, discuss the details of the program with them. How often will the children write to each other? What language will they use? What topics will they cover? How will you monitor and facilitate the communication?

  • Assign each child a pen pal based on age, interests, and preferences. Introduce them to each other and provide some icebreaker questions to start the conversation.

  • Encourage the children to write regularly and sincerely to their pen pals. Help them with grammar, spelling, and vocabulary if needed. Remind them to be respectful, curious, and open-minded.

The Kibbutz Movement

In the 15 years I spent teaching Israeli history to 5th graders, the kibbutz movement was perhaps the most captivating topic. Their favorite activity was designing a map of their dream kibbutz.

Begin by offering background information through YouTube videos documenting life on a kibbutz. Later, students can apply the knowledge they've gained to design a map of their ideal kibbutz. They'll be required to make decisions regarding various elements, such as the inclusion of children's houses, the types of businesses they would like to establish, and the range of recreational activities they envision for their kibbutz. This will allow them to exercise their creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills as they imagine and shape their unique vision of an ideal community.

Finally, consider inviting a guest speaker who grew up on a kibbutz to share their experience.

The Five Aliyot

The five waves of Jewish immigration, or aliyot, to Palestine, represent a crucial aspect of Jewish history and the establishment of the State of Israel. Exploring these historical waves can give students a deeper understanding of the diverse factors that contributed to the formation of modern Israel. Studying the aliyot helps students connect with Israel personally and historically. It allows them to appreciate the resilience and determination of those who sought to build a homeland, whether driven by religious or political reasons.

This collection of resources will guide your students to think critically about the five major waves of Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. This set of educational resources is designed to empower educators like you to deliver engaging and informative lessons on this historical time.

Israeli Culture Day

Promote cultural exchange activities that give children a firsthand experience of Israeli traditions and customs. For example, children can learn how to prepare delicious dishes such as hummus or an Israeli salad, using fresh ingredients and simple techniques.

Plan a Hebrew movie night by screening an Israeli original or American motion picture in Hebrew! Set up a concession stand with traditional Israeli snacks like Bissli or Apropo.

They can also enjoy listening to Israeli songs and learning about their meanings and origins. These activities are entertaining and interactive, allowing children to actively engage with Israeli culture and deepen their connection to the country.

Teaching children about Israel cultivates their love, understanding, and support for the land and people. By adopting engaging and immersive teaching approaches, such as mock trips, pen pal programs, exploring the kibbutz movement, and Israeli culture days, we empower our children to become ambassadors for Israel. We can nurture a profound and unbreakable love for Israel, ensuring a new generation of passionate Zionists.

Celebrating Israel's Independence Day? Check out these no-prep printables.

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