Gilad Shalit-A Teachable Moment

For close followers of Israel, such people, concepts and events as Yonatan Netanyahu, the Law of Return, the Balfour Declaration—even Sbarro and Dolphinarium—are quite well known. For the majority of non Jews and even Jews, however, they are quite foreign.

Today marks the one week anniversary of the release of Gilad Shalit. His release provides Jewish educators with an opportunity to initiate important discussions with our students, their parents, friends and neighbors. Nearly everybody has an opinion about the “fairness” of swapping Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. And this complex is worth discussing.

Shalit’s release seems to have left many wondering who are the “good guys” and “bad guys.” Who are these people who returned home to a hero’s welcome? How was an Israeli soldier “kidnapped?” Why do Israelis go in to the army in the first place, and for how long? Such questions point to one important fact–many people don’t know basic history—of Judaism, Zionism, of the Arab/Israeli conflict

Helping teach these “basics” is a fitting tribute to Gilad Shalit. And let’s commit to educating a few of our friends—before November 2nd. This date is the 94th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917–the famous letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community. It contains a famous line which is useful in our work with our students:

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

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