Jews have through the generations collectively laid great emphasis on remembering and commemorating events which helped to shape their survival. Almost every religious festival has some sort of history lesson and the retelling of these events ensures that the lessons of history are transmitted from adults to children.
Whether it is a symptom of today’s society or whether it has always been present the fact remains that large parts of the population in any particular country no longer learn about their historical experiences and thus fall prey to ignorance and oblivious misunderstanding of the pitfalls which lie in wait
As Jewish education weakens in many communities the inevitable fallout becomes more evident. This can be seen in the increasing numbers of unaffiliated, disaffiliated and thoroughly switched off individuals who having received minimal or no historical lessons, now join the ranks of Israel delegitimizers. Advocating and supporting groups which in essence deny the right of the Jewish People to live in their homeland has become the norm in various quarters. Condemning and boycotting Zionists and Israel while embracing the vilest historical revisionists have become the byproducts of an educational deficiency syndrome.
For those whose knowledge of historical facts goes back no further than a couple of years at best, the events leading up to the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in 1948 is ancient history lost in the mists of time. The Six Day War and its ramifications are complete mysteries while the Yom Kippur War elicits not much more enlightenment. As a result of living in Israel a far larger number of youngsters and adults are aware of these momentous events but even here the danger of historical amnesia is evident in certain quarters.
That is why an interesting news item sourced from EDGE Partners (a media relations company) caught my attention because it reports on an innovative educational initiative to enlighten Israeli pupils about some of the key moments which have shaped Israel’s modern history. November has been designated as “Israel History month.”
“The goal is to explore the Jewish story in all its complexity, intellectual depth and sophistication, but in a way that makes it easy for today’s students to understand and appreciate,” says Noam Weissman, Senior Vice President of Education at Unpacked for Educators. “November is packed with some of the most important building blocks of the Israel story and deserves to be highlighted.”
Notable November events include: the Balfour Declaration, which was issued in November 1917; the passage of UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan); and UN Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.
The month also marks the start of Operation Moses, which brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s, and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin – one of the defining moments of recent modern Israeli history.
“We want to make sure students learn more about Israel than just Memorial Day and Independence Day,” adds Dina Rabhan, CEO, Jerusalem U. “These videos and associated programming are designed to make key historical events and moments that have shaped the landscape of modern Israel come alive.”
Over 25,000 students in 220 educational institutions around the world have already used Unpacked for Educators videos in 2019.
This is a good start to filling in missing facts and equipping youngsters with information and knowledge which will make them more able to appreciate the lessons of history as well as being able to combat lies and revisionist conspiracies.
The need for such resources is demonstrated by the ongoing attempts to distort past events as part of ongoing campaigns to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
This November marks the 102nd. Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The irony is that if Arabs States and their leaders would have co-operated with the Jewish leadership in subsequent years and accepted the concept of tolerance and the right of the Jewish People to return to their indigenous home there would today be no dispute. Instead the predecessors of today’s rejectionists tried to extinguish any sort of Jewish sovereignty. By doing so they snuffed out any sort of possibility towards peace and co-existence. Without understanding the realities which flowed from this series of historical occurrences it is impossible to grasp why our intended “peace” partners have crashed into the dead end they now find themselves in.
Nothing illustrates the hallucinatory nature of Abbas and his cohorts thinking than to read what passes for their historical lies and assertions. Courtesy of PMW here is a sample of this year’s outbursts.
None of these fantasies would be sustainable if they were not encouraged by the hypocritical attitudes of the UN in general and the EU in particular. Without a doubt, if ever Jeremy Corbyn and his party were to gain power in the UK one of their first acts would be to apologise for the Balfour Declaration, pay compensation and recognize a terror-supporting “Palestine.”
This brings us to another significant November anniversary which is Kristallnacht. In 1938 after five years of boycotts, rising Jew-hatred, exclusions, expulsions and labelling, the pogrom whereby hundreds of Synagogues were destroyed by arson and thousands of Jews deported to Dachau and other camps took place. Most of the democracies issued expressions of outrage and condemnation while others pretended they knew nothing or maintained silence. The one thing that they all had in common was that none of them intended to do anything serious to save Jews or sanction Germany.
Those who know history and what eventually transpired can discern an eerie similarity with today’s rising tide of hate combined with a sustained campaign to exclude, expel and label Israel and its products. The same double standards employed in the 1930s are being used today and the identical drip-feed of poisonous slanders issue forth.
Thank goodness we are not as powerless as we once were but in an ironical twist of logic this makes things more complicated. As we can now fight back in various ways this results in those peddling hate to be more frustrated and therefore double their efforts. After all when Jews could not retaliate it was so much easier.
In an ominous reminder that we forget and ignore the lessons of history at our peril comes the news that the German city of Dresden has declared a “Nazi emergency.” Seventy-four years after the Holocaust the rise of this scourge and its resurgence in the leading country of the EU is a warning to us all. The fact that this virus is once again mutating in Europe and elsewhere should give us cause to redouble our efforts at thwarting and defeating it before it once again becomes a pandemic.
We can only do this if we are armed with a sense of history and are prepared to learn the lessons thereof.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.