As parents, we spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on our children’s education. We do whatever is necessary to ensure that they are well-versed in a wide array of academic subjects and make certain they have the tools necessary to succeed in today’s world.
As religious Jews, we also invest a great deal of time, energy, and financial resources ensuring that our children receive a quality religious education. Learning Jewish law, tradition, and philosophy becomes a critical element of our children’s daily lives, with the intended result being a deep understanding and appreciation of Judaism and a desire to further develop their connections to God, Torah, and the Jewish community on their own.
But there is another component to our children’s education that is crucial in the development of their Jewish identity – namely, their knowledge of and connection to the land of Israel.
As Jews around the world battle a virulent strain of anti-Semitism and a growing animosity toward the state of Israel, it is especially important that we teach our children about their roots in the Jewish homeland and our national responsibility to protect our birthright at all costs.
With its historical, religious, and cultural significance, Israel is an integral part of our “Jewish DNA.” It is the common thread that connects all Jews around the world and serves as a unifying force, bringing us together as a nation in furtherance of a common goal. Very often, the centrality of Israel in our lives is the only thing on which we can all agree.
Educating our children about Israel is not merely an exercise in familiarization with historical Jewish storylines. Rather, it is about helping them comprehend just how vital Israel is to our very existence as Torah-observant Jews. Armed with this information, our children are better equipped to observe the Torah’s commandments and stand as staunch advocates and stalwart defenders of Israel.
Jewish students on college campuses across the United States face numerous challenges relating to Israel and their Jewish identities. Whether confronting university professors who express anti-Zionist sentiments in the classroom or fellow students who launch anti-Israel campaigns on campus, our children have to be ready, willing, and able to hold their ground on the front lines of the perpetual battle to establish the truth about the Jewish state. They must be prepared to combat the lies and vitriol with the facts, their resilience stemming from a love of Israel and a well-developed Jewish identity.
Though the physical journey to Israel is long and complicated for many, it is clear that the best way to strengthen Israel and ensure its survival is by populating it with Jews from all over the globe. At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting the state of Israel and to start living the Israeli life. Otherwise, our pro-Israel advocacy will ring empty and our religious Zionist ideals will remain unfulfilled.
As a father and an ardent Zionist, I am exceptionally proud of my eldest daughter, who chose to spend her high school years in Israel as a participant of Naale (the Elite Academy Program), which is co-funded by the state of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel. She made this decision on her own, as a result of her incredible love for the Land of Israel, because she could not conceive of spending her formative years anywhere other than our homeland.
Now in her second year of the program, my daughter is totally immersed in Israeli life and engrossed in Israeli culture. She is thoroughly enjoying every moment of her ideals-driven and spiritually heightened Israeli life. She is truly living the dream.
While we can’t all take advantage of this particular program, we can agree that this type of education is essential in that it ensures the future of religious Zionist ideals. With the elections for the World Zionist Congress underway, we have an opportunity to advance religious Zionist educational programming by setting the agendas, priorities, and policies for the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, and Keren Hayesod. And all we have to do is vote.
My daughter’s experience is a testament to the wonderful things that can happen if we focus on teaching our children to love the Land of Israel. As such, I have cast my vote for the Religious Zionist Slate (www.VoteTorah.org), a party committed to shaping the future of the Jewish nation through the continued growth of Torah and Zionist education worldwide.
As Jews, there are countless ways we can demonstrate our deep commitment to Israel. But, at this moment, none is as important as voting in the elections for the World Zionist Congress.
Israel is the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and we have an inherent obligation to teach our children about the central role the state of Israel plays in our history, tradition, and everyday lives. It is a lesson that will pay dividends for generations and help maintain Jewish continuity for eternity.