Program: Whose Declaration? Whose Independence? - Values of The Jewish State of Israel
In this program, participants "edit" the Israeli Declaration of Independence as a means of initiating the discussion: Do we have the power to critique Jewish and/or Israeli institutions? How do we balance particular values with communal needs? Which different values find expression in the relatively new "Jewish homeland"?
This program includes a variety of options and thus can be adapted easily for many different types of groups.
- To stimulate the participants to create their own personal ideal set of values for the State of Israel.
- To familiarize the participants with the opinions of many famous people regarding an ideal Israel, as well as with the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.
What you will need:
- copies of Appendix 1 cut so that each quote is on an individual strip of paper.
- a large board with chalk/markers.
- photocopies of Israel's Declaration of Independence (enlarged if possible).
- red pens.
1. Here are 3 options for this stage of the program:
a. Ask the participants to introduce themselves by naming one value that they would want their country espouse/support/demand of its citizens. For example, "I want the country I live in to be a democracy," or "I want my country to provide support for its elderly". Write their ideas on the board.
b. For a creative group- ask them to draw on big papers how they think the state of the Jews should look (bring newspapers, colors etc. ). Discuss their "art" and ask each participant to explain what "his/her" state should be and which values would be dominant.
c. Ask the group to say aloud all the words that come up to their mind when they think of "ISRAEL". Write everything they say on a big board. Divide the ideas into good things, bad things and wishful thinking. Leave the last category on the board for them to use it later on when editing the declaration.
2. Here are 2 options for this stage of the program:
a. Pass out the strips of paper with the quotes of Zionist philosophers, intellectuals and practical founders of the State of Israel (Appendix 1). Following the numerical order of the quotes, each participant should read one of the quotes aloud, and then give a brief summary of the value it represents.
b. Hang the different quotes around the room and let the participants circulate and read them.
3. Divide the group into small groups (2-4 people), and distribute copies of the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel (Appendix 2). Participants should read it aloud in their groups.
4. Each group should edit the document as they wish: crossing out, substituting, inserting, and reordering. They should use their own beliefs, priorities, and desires, and shouldn't feel compelled to include the ones expressed in the quotes (from stage 2). The only requirement is that the participants agree with the language and the message of the new document. Encourage discussion and compromise within the groups.
5. The groups should present their revisions to the Declaration, explaining the reasons for their changes.
6. Conclude the activity with a large group discussion based on any or all of the following questions:
- In the original document, how is Judaism represented - as culture? as law? as religion?
- Which were more dominant-Jewish themes, or ones derived from other sources? How do the latter impact on Israel's role as a Jewish state? Are some of the values both Jewish and secular?
- Do either of the documents (original or revised) reflect Israel as a Jewish homeland? Do you feel that Israel is your homeland?
- Distribute Appendix 3 and read it aloud. Are the facts mentioned relevant to the question of Israel as a Jewish state ?
Dream or Reality?
- In what ways does the original Declaration reflect contemporary Israeli society? In what ways do your revisions reflect this?
Changing the Declaration of Independence ?
- Was your intention to make the document fit your needs or the needs of all Jews or the needs of all Israelis or the needs of all Jewish Israelis...?
- As Diaspora Jews, do we have the right to "edit" a fundamental Israeli document? To what extent must Israel meet our needs or beliefs?
- Were the working groups characterized by agreement or dissension? How did you deal with the latter?
- What links did you see between the quotes about Zionism and the Declaration of Independence? Are all the values represented by those quoted reflected in the declaration? What is missing?
Also on the WUJS site:
More Yom HaAtzmaut Activities.
The very basics on the Israel Day of Independence.
This year's dates for Yom Haatzmut can be found in our WUJS Year Mapper.
It's worth having a look at the text of the Declaration of Independence