Guiding Questions for Parents

Guiding Questions for Parents

About Israel

The three Milk & Honey Press books introduce the following topics about Israel:

  1. Geography of Israel: seacoasts, the Negev, and main coastal cities
  2. The concept of a “Jewish state” and the role of religion in Israel
  3. Secular and religious Jews
  4. The Negev desert, and animals that live there
  5. Daily life (family activities, school)
  6. Immigration
  7. Ethiopian and Russian olim
  8. Reserve army duty, which dads of young children generally need to serve
  9. 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.

Under this set of ideas for talking about Israel are two other sections. One gives ideas for discussing Jewish concepts that the Milk & Honey books illustrate.
The final section suggests psychological issues that children find interesting to talk about.

Jonathan and the Waves

by Shira Sheri

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.

Map is courtesy of

  • 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 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 grass and trees. The darker the green, the more hilly the area. Where are the least green areas of Israel?
    The greenest areas the mountains along the Jordan river, and in the upper area called the Galilee.
  • 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

    By Eve Tal

    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
    • 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?

    Judaic Concepts in Milk & Honey Books

    Jonathan and the Waves

    1. How do people have a personal relationship with G-d?
    2. Who in the Bible talked directly with G-d?
    3. What might you want to tell G-d if you and G-d could have a conversation?
    4. For more advanced Jewish students– What are some of the Hebrew words for different aspects of G-d?

    A New Boy

    1. What is the Jewish way of responding to people who are strangers, like newcomers or people who feel left out? Discuss the concept of reaching out and helping the ger (rhymes with care) someone who is a stranger.
    2. When are times that you act in a way that is in keeping with the concept of hesed, kindness, as opposed to saying or doing things that are mean (e.g., calling someone a name)?

    Lon Lon’s Big Night

    1. Hesed, helping people, is an important Jewish value. How did Lon Lon’s firiends help him? How have you helped your friends?
    2. Honor your parents is another Jewish value. How does Lon Lon honor his parents?
    3. Tikun olam is the principle of healing the world. It is the basis for paying attention to the needs of our earth, including 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?

    Questions for Exploring Feelings

    Jonathan and the Waves

    1. Everyone sometimes feels scared. What has scared you (waves, robbers, heights, etc)?
    2. What did you do when you were scared? (importance of telling grown-ups). What helped? (information is the best antidote to anxiety)
    3. What helped you to relax, to feel calmer? (breathing, hugs, thinking about G-d, solving the problem, etc.)

    A New Boy

    1. When have you been a newcomer somewhere?
    2. When have you felt left out? What helped?
    3. When has someone you loved had to leave for a while, how did you feel? What did you do to feel better?

    Lon Lon’s Big Night

    1. Mistakes are for learning (not self-blame “What an idiot I was to…”, or regret, “Why did I run after…I shouldn’t have…”)
    2. Problems are for solving (When Lon Lon finds himself alone, he looks about for what he can do to find his home.)
    3. Curiosity – How can curiosity help us? What is it good for?How can we find ways to satisfy our curiosity without getting into trouble or danger?
    4. Courage (or bravery) – Courage means to feel the fear but than to overcome it. If somebody doesn’t feel afraid than he is not courageous. Lon-Lon is courageous when he is threatened by the Eagle-owl: He panicked for a moment but than he decided to save himself. He believed in himself and did not surrender to the fear.
    5. The circle of life (maybe this could be a topic for the older children). Lon Lon discovers some facts about life. He finds out that he is a link in the chain of life, which could be very cruel sometimes. He is about to become a predator soon, and on the other hand he might also become a prey. Are the predators really “bad” like we tend to see them?