Having taught and directed a program in Israel-Arab studies for the last five years whose major focus is on presenting “both sides,” I can say that the approach works (“New Consensus Emerging On Israel Education,” Dec. 10).
Unlike pure “advocacy” approaches, we emphasize activism through empathy, which translates into having a thorough and complete understanding of the Palestinian Arab viewpoint.
For my post-high school students, this involves learning from Palestinian Arabs, meeting Palestinian Arabs and experiencing some of what Palestinian Arabs experience.
Our students, who generally come from strong Jewish backgrounds, have contributed disproportionately to leadership positions on major campuses in the U.S., Canada and England.
Teaching the “truth” is fine when your students need only preach to themselves, but when faced with the challenge of responding to what the under-informed see and what the over-intellectual believe, one needs to appear credible as well as be accurate.
While falafel parties and flag-waving student cheerleaders for Israel make for nice photos, it is the students with the more introspective insight and intelligent, rather than emotive, activism that will ultimately be listened to.
Many diaspora Jews fail to realize that Israel is in fact a real country with real problems and real controversies. Ignoring this makes for nice romanticism, but it will not create the leadership necessary to achieve the goals that many Israel advocacy organizations claim they seek.
The writer directs the Israel-Arab Studies Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem.