Don’t Teach Students To Fight For Israel — Show Them How To Fall In Love With It
For decades, pro-Israel organizations have been teaching students how to argue on behalf of Israel; they equip students with talking points, facts and figures, data sheets and detailed pamphlets on the conflict, on the innovations of Israel and on the obstacles to peace in the region. In short, they’ve been teaching students how to litigate on behalf of Israel.
But this approach fails to cultivate affinity and identification with Israel and Israeli society; by affinity and identification, I mean that warm feeling of relatability and empathy which is the foundation of a healthy relationship and which enables young Jews to construct their own role within Jewish peoplehood.
Instead, litigation creates an unhealthy sense that Israel is merely a political abstraction and identifying with it simply means combating BDS resolutions or eating falafel on Yom Haatzmaut. This is a starting point, but it is not enough — and it is not Israel education.
Instead of teaching students how to litigate the conflict, we should be teaching students how to love Israelis and Israeli culture.
… Through my interactions with students in both high school and college, I have seen firsthand how the old paradigm doesn’t work. For example trying to combat BDS resolutions will not work on a campus that sees the stigmatization of Israelis as a virtue instead of a vice. What is needed then is to attack the act of stigmatizing any community in the first place. As a result, I recently developed a framework that revolutionizes the way we talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s called the “Theory of Enchantment,” and its mission is to create discussions that promote empathy while ensuring that neither community is ostracized in the process.
Chloé Simone Valdary is Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Jerusalem U