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Summer 2013
History, Politics and Culture of Modern Israel
CIE Educators' Workshop

June 23-28, 2013
Atlanta, GA

A week-long opportunity for educators and educational leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel’s history, politics, economy and culture, while cultivating participants’ skills in classroom application and best practices. After collaborating with experts and peers, and honing their instructional practices, Summer Workshop alumnae are uniquely positioned to foster understanding of the significance of Zionism and the State of Israel in Jewish and world history for generations of students.
  • Apply before February 15, 2013 and receive a special conference price of only $99 ($150 after February 15th)
  • $250 travel stipends are available
Click here for more information
Click here for an application
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The CIE mission is to be a source destination for learners and educators about modern Israel. We produce and present Israel’s complex story via innovative learning platforms: workshops, podcasts, source compilations, and timely commentary of current issues. We believe that Jews especially, should know Israel like they know the ‘Four Questions.’
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From everyone at the Center for Israel Education, We wish you and your families a Happy New Year and much success in 2013.

We offer for consideration two ideas for teaching: the connection of social justice, concern of others symbolized by Martin Luther King’s life, and the celebration of Tu B’Shevat.

This week, we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, a day that has become synonymous with acts of community service and fighting for causes of social justice.  Judaism is rich with examples and teachings about the importance of helping others and of engaging in acts of Tikkun Olam.  This is true in Israel as well, and embedded in Israeli history.  There are a number of ways to connect themes of caring and freedom to your teaching of Israel.
  • Look at any one of the Israeli examples when the Jewish state  actively opened its doors to Jews from other lands.  These included providing a safe place for Jews from Arab lands in the late 1940s and actively rescuing Jews in Operation Magic Carpet -- from Yemen in 1949-50; Operation Moses from Ethiopia in the 1980's; Soviet immigration in the 1980s and 90's; and Operation Solomon from Ethiopia in the 1990's.  What were the ethical as well as political motivations behind the concern for Jews in need or crisis?  Why does Israel provide shelter and protection when other states do not do so readily or at all?  What is inherent about Israel’s commitment to the ingathering of Jews? infrastructure needed to be created in Israel to support the social and economic requirements  of these immigrants?  Where has Israel succeeded or fallen short in the absorption of other Jews into Israeli society?
  • Have ve your students look at any of these immigrant absorption experiences pointing out what might been done better in the context of what Israel’s economy or politics of the moment contributed to choices made or  have them choose and research an organization engaging in social action in Israel today.  What need(s) are they meeting?  What are their biggest challenges/successes?  To identify organizations, a good starting point is Israel21C's Social action page.

For the Educator
CIE Tips for Infusing Israel into Your Teaching of Tu B'Shevat

Tu B'Shevat is a wonderful festival to connect to Israel.  Like Hanukkah, it has significance and connection to both ancient Israel and the modern Jewish State.  Here are a few ways that CIE suggests infusing Tu B'Shevat into your teaching about Israel - or vice versa.

1.Tu B'Shevat, Respect for Nature and The Temple

In ancient Israel, Tu B'Shevat was the day when farmers offered the first fruits of their trees in the form of a tithe or tax to the Temple after the trees had turned four years old.  This custom was derived from the Torah, which says in Leviticus 19:23-25, "When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden.  Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten.  In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the Lord; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit-that it's yield to you may be increased: I am the Lord your God."
A standard was needed in the land to calculate the tithe.  As with much of Jewish law, Hillel and Shammai debated the date to be used as the standard benchmark, with Hillel's date (15th of Shevat) winning out over Shammai's date (1st of Shevat).  The reason that Shevat was chosen by both was because it marked the end of the rainy season in Israel (and in the case of Israel's recent weather - the snowy season as well). The fruits that were tithed were then used mostly as food by the priests and their households..

Activity Suggestions: 
  • Compare the system of agricultural tithing in ancient Israel as outlined in Leviticus to modern taxation in Israel - how are they similar or different?  How is Tu B'Shevat similar or different to April 15th in the United States? You can get more information on Israel's tax system here.
  • Look at and track weather patterns and weather history for Israel today. Was Hillel right to select the 15th of Shevat over the 1st of Shevat?  What is the average rainfall in Israel in any given year and what is the "rainy season?"
2. Tu B'Shevat Shifts

As with many Jewish rituals, the destruction of the Temple meant that at least in practical terms, the date of Tu B'Shevat no longer had any practical significance, however the date was kept alive, adapted and changed, first by the mystics in Tzfat in the 16th century and later by the Zionists and pioneers in Eretz Yisrael in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Influenced by the Biblical verse, "Man is like the tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20:19), the mystics in Tzfat began celebrating Tu B'Shevat with a seder, similar to the Passover seder, in the 17th century.  It was at this time that the custom of eating fruits, especially those from Israel, became a part of the holiday's observance. 

The custom of planting trees in Israel on Tu B'Shevat dates to 1890, when Ze'ev Yavetz, an educator in Zichron Ya'akov, took his students to plant trees.  In 1908, the custom was adopted by the teacher's unions and the Keren Kayemet (JNF).  Yavetz told Haaretz in 1891, "For the love of the saplings…the school must make a festival of the day that was set aside from ancient times in Israel as the New Year of the Trees.  To gracefully and beautifully arrange the trees, saplings, lilies and flowers just like they do in Europe on the first of May." (Quoted in Trees, Earth, and Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology, edited by Ari Alon, Naomi Mara Hyman, and Arthur Waskow, p. 304)

On Tu B'Shevat 1949, Israel's legislative body (to be named the Knesset two days later on February 16th) met for the first time in Jerusalem following the elections on January 25th. Most of the representatives of the new assembly stopped on their way to Jerusalem and planted trees, including David Ben-Gurion as shown in the pictures below from the Knesset website.

Activity Suggestions:  (In addition to your tree planting and sederim)
  • Read the following quote describing Tu B'Shevat 1949 in Jerusalem by Yom Tov Lewinski, “Still in the early hours of the morning, Jerusalem’s children were seen passing by in large groups, each by their standard, dressed splendidly in Scout’s uniforms, saplings in hand.  The kindergarten children, crowned with garlands and holding flowerpots, crossed the streets singing and shouting for joy: ‘Tu B'Shevat is here. Hail the trees’ New Year.”  At nine o’clock, the orderly processions of schoolchildren and youth organizations began-young planters with shovels and hoes in one hand, and saplings in the other.  At ten o’clock, the procession of planters from the young generation was received by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.  On that day, thousands of trees were planted throughout the country in honor of the Knesset.” (Quoted in Trees, Earth, and Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology, edited by Ari Alon, Naomi Mara Hyman, and Arthur Waskow, p. 304) Discuss: Why do you think Tu B'Shevat was chosen as the day  that the Knesset was opened?  What similarities are there between the role of the Knesset and trees?  What connections are there between the Land and the Knesset?
  • Read the poem, "With the First Knesset," by Nathan Alterman.  What if any connections does Alterman make between the historic opening of the Knesset and the trees/nature? 
  • Research - how is Tu B'Shevat celebrated in Israel today?  How does the Knesset mark its anniversary and connection to Tu B'Shevat?
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