Israel & International Affairs
JCRC engages with people from diverse backgrounds to build support for a strong U.S. – Israel relationship based on shared values. We support Israel as the Jewish and democratic homeland of the Jewish people. JCRC advocates for a negotiated two-state solution allowing Israelis and Palestinians to live as neighbors in peace, security, and dignity. We educate the community about the complexity of the conflict and model respectful discourse through our speakers and discussions.
JCRC leads our community and works with allies, to actively counter campaigns to delegitimize Israel. As part of our “Stand Up! Speak Out!” initiative, JCRC offers a prestigious Israel Engagement Fellowship for Jewish teens eager to engage thoughtfully on Israel by delving into the region’s history and contemporary challenges. The JCRC’s Israel Committee researches and compiles a range of articles for our monthly “Israel in Depth” newsletter, and crafts statements or Letters to the Editor as necessary.
Suggestions for Talking about Israel
Against the backdrop of a complex geopolitical conflict taking place on the other side of the globe, Americans in general and American Jews, in particular, are navigating the sea of ideas and information, of opinion and expression. Social media is a powerful tool for sharing information and opinions but is terrible for discussing this and other sensitive topics in a respectful, nuanced manner. While social media can be awash in misinformation and outright antisemitism, our own face-to-face interactions can also feel fraught.
Suggestions for how to think and talk about Israel and the Middle East:
Before you engage in an Israel conversation, think about who you are going to converse with and what you hope will result.
- Is it a friend looking to understand your perspective?
- Is it someone with lots or little knowledge about Israel?
- Is it someone whose opinion you don’t know or whose views are very different than your own?
Each of these scenarios might require a different approach and a different goal. But in each case, the best conversations are rooted in:
- Curiosity – a willingness to listen and learn from the other.
- Honesty – speaking your truth and pursuing facts.
- Humility – accept that both of you know only a portion of the full story.
- The focus must be to hear and be heard, to ask and answer questions, to learn something of each other’s values, and, if possible, to find a point of values agreement.
- Center your identity and your values in the conversation. If Israel matters a great deal to you, it will matter at least a little bit to people who care about you. When Israel is front-page news and people you know ask you about it, it’s because they want to know what their friend thinks.
- Listen fully to what is being said. Ask questions. Resist the urge to interrupt. Once the other person has had their say, it’s your turn. You might consider posing this question: Would you like to know how this situation looks to me? Now the obligation to listen has been placed before the other person.
- No one expects you to have all the answers. If you can balance passion and compassion, the factual and the personal, and do it all with calmness, intelligence and respect, the conversation will not be easily dismissed.
- Maintain perspective. We are 7,000 miles away. The conflict predates all of us and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Nothing we say, do, or post is going to change that.
- You may find a point of agreement; you may agree on nothing. If you leave the conversation with clarity on where you agree and where you differ, if each person walks away with something to think about, and if there is a possibility of another conversation another day…this is a good result.
Additional suggestions specifically for teens:
- Check-in with parents and/or other trusted adults because they can provide perspective, a sounding board, and a source of guidance.
- Take information breaks (Shabbat) or other intentional breaks.
- Remember, Israel is much more than a story of conflict, even when conflict is what dominates the news cycle. Nourish your love of Israel with Israeli music, food, streaming Israeli TV shows, and, if possible, connection with actual Israelis. Read about the interesting things happening in an area that interests you. Engage with Israel’s multi-faceted dimensions every way you can.
Israel, like all sovereign nations, has the right and responsibility to defend its people against terrorism and any other security threats. The events during May 2021 prove not only the security challenges that Israel faces, but also the need to work towards an outcome that will ensure an end to the violence, an enduring peace for the region, Israel’s security, and Palestinian self-determination. View a collection of resources to stay informed on the conflict.
Teaching and discussing Israel and the Middle East can sometimes be polarizing and emotionally charged. We recommend curricular resources based on primary sources, which enable teachers and students alike to unpack these complex topics in constructive ways.
Israel Engagement Fellowship
An intensive learning experience that equips Jewish teens with the knowledge and confidence to be effective Israel advocates on their future college campus. The ISRAEL ENGAGEMENT FELLOWSHIP educates Jewish teens (10th, 11th, 12th graders) eager to gain valuable knowledge that will help them engage effectively on Israel, now, in college, and well into the future.
Israel Related Posts
The Indy JCRC and Jewish Federations across Indiana are hosting this briefing with Aviv Ezra, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, on Friday, May 14, 2021, at 1 pm ET. Register to attend!
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