Guiding Questions About Israel For Teachers
Israel: The initial three Milk & Honey Press books introduce the following topics about Israel:
- Geography of Israel: seacoasts, the Negev, and main coastal cities
- The concept of a “Jewish state” and the role of religion in Israel
- Secular and religious Jews
- The Negev desert, and animals that live there
- Daily life (family activities, school)
- Ethiopian and Russian olim
- Reserve army duty, which dads of young children generally need to serve
- Israel as a multi-racial and muti-cultural country
Below are suggestions for exploring these topics. They are organized by book. Feel welcome to print out the questions, and also the sample maps.
Jonathan and the Waves
Sandy beaches stretch the full length of Israel’s lovely Mediterranean seacoast. One sunny morning Jonathon and his family enjoy the beach. Jonathan builds a sandcastle. His sister Gali is swimming. But when Jonathan wants to join Gali, the waves scare him. Who will help him? That’s when Jonathan learns about G-d.
- Look together at a map of Israel, so children can see that Israel as a country of beaches, with a long coastline. The bottom part of Israel is shaped like an ice cream cone; the rest of Israel, the ice cream part is tall and thin, and has the parts that are next to the sea. If you lived in Tel Aviv, how long would it take you to get to the beach? (depending on where you live, you might be able to walk there from your house, or may need a short car or bus ride through the city, which runs up and down along the shore)
Map is courtesy of www.templebuilders.com/maps/politicalhtm.htm
- Map reading: What color are the oceans? Blue means water, oceans or lakes. Find Israel’s ocean coastline, and three main their bodies of water. Green means mountains and farmlands
- Importance of coastline for ports. How can you tell on the map if a city has ports? (see the hook on the upper part of Israel’s shoreline-that’s where Haifa is, and on the other side of the bay, the ancient port of Akko. Israel’s main Mediterranean port cities are Haifa, Ashdod and Ashkelon. In the southern tip of Israel, the port of Eilat is on the Red Sea.
- What cities are on Israel’s coastline (repeat the names after the adult says them)? Or sing to the tune of Yankee Doodle:Nahariya, then old Akko, Haifa’s beauty then Netanya Tel Aviv, the biggest city Ashdod and then Askelon
- The family in this story is a secular Jewish family. How can you tell? (i.e., the man does not wear a kippa). What is similar about secular and religious (“observant”) Jews in Israel? (e.g, both may seek a relationship with G-d in their daily lives, and live their lives by Jewish values, like caring for others and doing good in the world).
- What does it mean when we say that Israel is a “Jewish state?” (It’s a home for Jewish people for Jews from all over the world. It is the birthplace of the Jewish religion. It is run on Jewish values such as being kind to others, making peace, valuing learning, Etc) Are others who are not Jews, such as Christians or Muslims or Bhudists, allowed to live in Israel? (Yes, and with all the same rights, such as the rights to go to schools and health care and to vote).
A New Boy
Boris is a new immigrant to Israel, and new to the kindergarten class. The children in his class talk to him, but Boris turns away. He doesn’t yet speak Hebrew. The children try to play with him, but Boris plays only by himself. The children gradually stop trying to be nice to him, until one boy’s father gets called up for army duty. Feeling sad himself, this boy begins to see Boris in a new way.
- What are “olim?” Olim are newcomers to Israel. The word “olim” is presented in the story with various Hebrew word plays. In Hebrew the word “olim” comes from the same word as “going up,” and also from the same word as “costs.” How do these meanings explain the answers the children give when the teacher asks them what “olim” (new immigrants) are?
- Where do new immigrants to Israel come from? Israel has had waves of immigration from all over the globe– from India, Africa, Europe, North America, the Arab world, South America, and more. Most recently many of Israel’s newest citizens have come, like the new boys in this story, from Russia, and Ethiopia. Show on a globe where Russia is, and where Ethiopia is.
- When new people arrive in Israel, what do they feel? Usually they experience a combination of excitement and fear. What challenges do they face? Learning the language is one of the biggest.
- Israel is a “multi-cultural” and “multi-racial” society. What do those words mean? The people of Israel are mainly Jewish in religion, but come from America, Russia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Yemen, South Africa, France, South American and many other lands and cultures.
- What kind of uniform is the father wearing when the boy climbs into his lap? Who serves in Israel’s army? What do people do in the army?
- What is miluim (reserve duty)? Currently, most Israeli men continue to serve from several weeks to several months a year in the military reserves until they are as old as 45. These times when their dad is away from home and work can be hard for children, for the moms, and for their place of business. They are challenging in different ways for the dads as well.
Lon Lon’s Big Night
Lon Lon, a little sand fox, was born in the Negev the desert of Israel and lived inside a burrow with his family. One night he was allowed to go outside for the first time.
Lon Lon stepped out from the burrow. He began to play, when suddenly he found himself alone in them idle of the desert, far from his home and family! That was the beginning of Lon Lon’s big night.
- Where is the Negev? The largest area of Israel is the Negev desert area in the southerm portion of the country.
- What is the climate there, and the landscape? The land is generally quite dry, with sparse vegetation but very beautiful with open vistas and, in the mornings and evenings, glowing colors.
- How much of the Negev has cities, and how much is for the animals and plants to live there on their own? One of Israel’s four largest cities, Beersheva, is in the Negev. At the southern tip of Israel is the fun resort town of Eilat. In between are many smaller villages and kibbutzim, and some of the land is used for military bases, but for the most part the area is populated more by plants and animals than by people.
- Endangered species. Sand foxes are an endangered species in Israel and in the world. This can be an interesting opening for discussion about ecology and extinction of animals around the world. Why is it important to talk about them or read stories about them? What can we do to help them?