NOAM Olami Educational Resources

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Equality or Hierarchy

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I am Jewish because…

Divide the 48 participants into 4 groups of 12, each with 2 Israeli soldiers and 1 madrich per group.


Tell the story of Daniel Pearl and pass round quotes from the book ‘I am Jewish’ written in his memory. In 2004 a book titled “I am Jewish” was published in his memory. The book consists of essays by some of the world’s most prominent Jewish figures ranging from Ehud Barak to Natalie Portman, from Milton Friedman to Nadine Gordimer. It motivated people throughout the Jewish world to think about, analyse, and debate the meaning of what it is to be a Jew. Ask people to read out some of the quotes…

Ask each person to go round the circle and as best they can in a sentence describe what it means to them to be Jewish. Everyone should start with the sentence I am Jewish…


Divide the 12 people into pairs and give each pair an envelope with slips of paper in it describing various elements of Judaism. Ask them to discuss and try to agree/compromise on a list of their priorities and what is most important for them as a Jew. They should arrange the pieces of paper in a list form with the most important at the top and least important at the bottom. If this looks as though it is taking too long, ask them to prioritise the 5 most importance and the 5 least important.

Slips of paper for pairs to prioritise:

Studying Jewish texts and the Torah

Friday night (Shabbat) dinner with family

Finding a Jewish partner

Supporting Jewish charities

Keeping kosher

Eating bagels on a Sunday morning

Belief in G-d

Going to synagogue on High Holidays
Learning to speak Hebrew

Speaking Hebrew

Having Jewish friends

Belonging to a Jewish organisation/student society

Tackling anti-Semitism

Having a mezuzah on doors

Visiting Israel

Living in Israel

Attending pro-Israel events/rallies in the UK

Doing voluntary work

Spending time with family

Ask the group pairs to come back together in their group of 12 and ask if anyone will read out their list.

– Why did you order the things the way you did?
– Do any other pairs have anything very different?
– Did any of you disagree with your pair whilst coming up with the list?
– If so, what did you disagree on?
– How do you think your Jewish identity has been formed?
– What things have affected the way you see yourself as a Jew?

Remain in the four groups of 12 / double up to form two groups of 24 / come together in one large group of 48

Open discussion:

– What does Israel mean to you as a Jew?
– Do you think it is important for Jews to live in Israel? Why/why not?
– Do you think the Jewish religion is integral to Jewish culture?
– How would you describe yourself to other people – would you describe yourself as Jewish? For example, would you describe yourself as a British Jew (Jewish is more important) or as a Jewish Brit (British is more important)?

Jewish scenarios:

(1) Dating and Marriage
You have gone out with both Jewish and non Jewish people (not at the same time!). However you have friends who ultimately want to marry Jewish and don’t go out with non-Jewish people because they fear it will develop into something more serious and then it will be too hard to break up.

– Which perspective do you agree with?
– Do you think marrying Jewish is important?
– Why / Why not?

(2) Brit-Circumcision:
You and your beautiful loving partner, who you met while on a ten-day trip to Israel in July 2009, are the proud parents of a baby boy!

– Would you give him a Brit Milah?
– Why / Why not?

(3) Children and Jewish schools
You have the option of deciding as a parent whether you want your child/children to attend a Jewish school (primary and/or secondary)

– What would you decide?
– Why / Why not?

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Educational activity for ‘Onward Israel’ group:
Two sides of the same coin

  • Introduction: Each participant randomly receives one aspect of daily life (pieces of paper pulled from a bag, with subjects like: Family, Studies, My neighborhood…) and tells the group about a moral dilemma he/she has faced having to do with this subject. What did they decide to do, or what choice did they make– and why?
  • Activity: The group leader explains the essential beliefs and characteristics of each of the two characters which appear on either side of the coin (see photos below). The group is divided into two, and one volunteer from each sub-group is asked to flip the coin in order to determine which character is assigned to which volunteer.
    The volunteers receive a list of ‘conflicts’, and argue the position of the character they’ve been assigned. After they’ve argued their case, the group can react and add their opinion. Another set of volunteers participates, arguing another dilemma—and the activity continues until all members have had a chance to argue one of the sides.
  • Conclusion: The two sub-groups come back together and discuss the following issues:

    • Is there a particular strategy they would recommend to help deal with one of the conflicts presented?
    • Do any of the conflicts presented relate to places/people/situation on this tiyul?
    • What are the elements that make the conflicts presented here so difficult to solve?
    • Did any of their prejudices/stereotypes change as a result of things they saw on this tiyul?
    • What are the values which are at the basis of the conflict(s) presented?

Nabil Ashraf Al-Husseini

Age: 42
Married with 4 children (ages: 2,5,13,18)
Lives in Nablus, his family are refugees who left Jerusalem during the War of 1948. His younger brother was killed during Operation ‘Defensive Shield’ by the IDF.
Occupation: Owner of a coffee shop.
Nabil believes that he has the right to live in Palestine as a citizen with equal rights in a country that is not a Jewish state.


Shmuel Meir

Age: 46
Married with 4 children (ages: 3,8,15,19)
Occupation: Owner of Efrat Winery.
Lives in Efrat (Gush Etzion), immigrated to Israel from the U.S. 15 years ago. His sister was killed in a terror attack on Jaffa Rd in Jerusalem in 2001 at the Sabarro restaurant. His oldest son is now serving in the Golani unit.
Samuel believes that the return of the Jews to ‘Eretz Israel’ is an historical event, and that the territory of Greater Israel is necessary for the Jewish people. He also recognizes the importance of respect and rights for Arabs in the country but under the rule of a Jewish state.

Dan Ben Ari

Age: 41
Married with 2 children (ages: 9, 12)
Occupation: Accountant
Lives in a Tel Aviv Suburb. His father fought in the Yom Kippur War. Dan is disappointed with the political situation and believes the State of Israel should exist alongside a Palestinian state.
He believes in the state of Israel as a democratic, liberal and progressive state, where there are full equal rights for all its citizens.

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Shabbat activity – 1 hr.
Court is in session!
Question: should Cinema City be open on Shabbat?

  • Introduction: scatter pictures on the table, each participant chooses a picture that symbolizes Shabbat for him/her. They present their picture to the group and explain why they chose it.
  • Activity: divide into two groups. Each group receives the question (should Cinema City be open on Shabbat?) and a letter written to the municipality by one of the two characters (below). Each group has 15 minutes to prepare an ‘opening argument’, and decide on two ‘witnesses’ they would call to argue their case in court.

    • Each group presents their case, their witnesses, and the other group has a chance to cross examine and question.(5 minutes)
    • Each group has 10 minutes to prepare a summing-up statement.
    • The judges (the groups three ‘madrichim’) make the final decision.
  • Conclusion: group discussion about whether or not their original opinion has changed as a result of the activity.

To: The Jerusalem Municipality
From: Inbal Berkowitz

To whom it may concern,
My name is Inbal Berkowitz and I am a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I moved to Jerusalem three years ago for my studies, and am now in my last year at university. Today, I face the question of whether to continue to build my future in Jerusalem after my studies, or to return to Tel Aviv where I was born. As a young person, one of the main factors in my decision is my social life. At this stage of life, all of us are already working hard and very busy, so our weekends are a time to meet friends, enjoy ourselves and take part in whatever entertainment opportunities the city offers. But how can we enjoy ourselves if there aren’t any places of entertainment open on Shabbat? There simply aren’t places in Jerusalem where young people can get together to enjoy themselves on the weekend. Perhaps this sounds trivial to you, but for young people it is a major factor in choosing a place to live. If you want this city to grow and to attract a young population, young families and a wide variety of populations (not just the ultra-orthodox), you must take into consideration different life styles. In addition, Israel sees itself as an open, Western society—therefore, every citizen must be allowed to choose his own life style. If Cinema City is open on Shabbat, then young people and young families can come to enjoy themselves there without disturbing anyone else—and those who choose not to do so can just stay away.
If you want to see Jerusalem become a city painted in black—populated by an ultra-orthodox majority, then you should continue to ignore the other populations, which will gradually leave the city. But it is time for a change. In the hope that you consider my request seriously,
Inbal Berkowitz

To: the Jerusalem Municipality
Re: Opening Cinema City on Shabbat

To whom it may concern,
My name is Aaron Malinkov and I own a chain of dairy restaurants. Recently, I opened one branch of my restaurant in the Cinema City in Jerusalem. I am aware of the recent demonstrations in favor of opening the Cinema City on Shabbat, and wish to express my strong opposition to this step. I am a religious Jew, have lived in Jerusalem for over fifty years, and feel strongly connected to the city. In my eyes, one of the beautiful things about this city is that all kinds of people can live here: ultra-orthodox, religious, secular, Arabs, new immigrants, etc. The city must remain tolerant to the beliefs of all and respect the entire population. Opening Cinema City on Shabbat would mean that my business would be one of the few which would be closed on the weekend. We all know how fiercely competitive the business world is. How can I compete with businesses that are open an additional two days during the week—days which are considered to be the busiest of the week (Friday night and Saturday)? This would be a death sentence for my business—my business would simply collapse. Do you want to open an entertainment center in Jerusalem which suits only one type of population, and doesn’t allow others to be part of it? It is important to note that a large percentage of the city’s population are observant Jews.
Another issue is the problem of workers in Cinema City. Those businesses which are open on Shabbat will not be able to hire religious workers. Isn’t this discrimination? No good businessman will want to hire a worker who won’t be able to work on the busiest days of the week. And, of course, this also means that those businesses which are open on Shabbat will not be certified as Kosher—thus, only the secular population will be able to eat there. This effectively closes the Cinema City to the large religious population of Jerusalem.
I hope that you will take my arguments into consideration,
Aaron Malinkov