Reprinted with permission from HaYidion.

Can the students in your school name Israel’s capital? Its most populous city?  A way it has brought technological advancement to the world?  The religions that view Jerusalem as holy? When students can correctly answer these factual questions, it is often assumed that they have achieved Israel literacy.  But there’s a big difference between knowing facts about Israel and knowing how to participate in its present and future.

The most important questions for students to consider as a part of Israel education are not factual questions, but contested, debatable and open-ended ones:  What is Zionism?  How can Judaism be enacted in the realpolitik, and how (if at all) should Judaism influence political and military decision-making?  Why is there a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and what might it take to make steps towards a peaceful resolution?  What responsibilities does the Jewish State have for Jews outside its borders and non-Jews under its rule?  What responsibilities do Jews outside of Israel have to Israel and its citizens?  These are not questions that can be answered in an Israel quiz bowl or on a multiple-choice Israel literacy test.  They have been answered differently in different times and places, and by those with different political and religious beliefs today.  It is the very multiplicity of answers that make up the rich tapestry of true Israel literacy.

Read more at HaYidion

Sivan Zakai, a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alum (Class 17), is Assistant Professor of Education at the Graduate Center for Education at American Jewish University and an affiliated scholar at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University. Sivan directs the AJU Teaching Israel Fellowship, a yearlong course of study for exemplary educators who teach about Israel in Jewish educational settings, and the Children’s Learning About Israel Project, a longitudinal study of how American Jewish children think about Israel. She also coaches organizations and educators seeking to improve their Israel education practice. She is the author of numerous articles about Israel education including “Values in Tension: Israel Education at a U.S. Jewish Day School,” which was awarded the Network for Research in Jewish Education research award. She can be reached at