Today is my (ohmyGodwhendidshegetsobig) five year old’s birthday. This year, it happens to fall on the same day as Israel’s birthday, Yom Haatzmaut. For us, celebrating one birthday is quite enough, and since I’m sure Israel won’t cry if we ignore hers, the choice is fairly obvious.
I’m allowing this confluence of events to give me a bye for another year, as I figure out how to make Israel a part of my girls’ lives and consciousness. When I was a young child, our relationship with Israel was easy and also superficial. We had our blue pushkes, our Ktonton books, and our elderly neighbors coming home with terribly strange kibbutz hats. We learned to sing Hatikvah the wrong way, and practiced songs and and dances that no real Israeli had done in decades. We celebrated and loved an idea of Israel that was largely an ideal of Israel.
Since that time, my relationship with Israel has become far more complicated. I still love her, but in a very different and admittedly conflicted way. It’s hard for me to sort out the Land of Israel, the concept of the state of Israel, and the decisions of particular leaders and particular times in history. (It’s much like my feelings about the United States of America – but since we live here, my girls learn about the country, gradually and naturally.
I can manage being in love and also sometimes angry and disappointed (heck, I’m practically an expert at it in my personal life) but it makes framing it all for my children just a little bit harder.
For those of you living outside of Israel, how and what have you done to help your children build a relationship with Israel?

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posted April 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

Good question, Amy. “If I knew then what I know now….”
The semester I homeschooled (RS only) my kids (long story), I struggled specifically with how to make Israel be more “real” for my 2nd & 4th grader. We put a good map of Israel on the wall in the dining room (we studied at the table there) and I used “Kids Love Israel. Israel Loves Kids” as our “text” and we’d plan trips using the map. When we re-enrolled them in a different religious school the following year, they went back to a more traditional curricular approach. I’m not sure it helped them feel particularly connected to Israel, nor did it address some of the conflicts within Israel. What helped them feel connected were BirthRight trips in their 20’s.
Now I’d make connections through individual people’s stories through
1) the Mitzvah Heroes Fund ( provides information about a variety of people who are doing incredible things to improve individuals’ lives in Israel [disclaimer: I’m a co-founder];
2) original artwork – has great photos of Israel (it’s the parents’ job to find the photos, in this case);
3) is a great site with lots of links about a wide variety of stuff;
4) blogs: How to be An Israel; Isreality; Israel the Beautiful – and lots, lots, more;
5) sports – or dance – or dance – or theatre.
6) children’s books – there’s something great fun about reading “The Hungry Caterpillar” in Hebrew.
A wonderful reference book, designed for teachers (and aren’t we parents all teachers???) is “What’s Jewish About Butterflies?” available through Berhman House. Although primarily about things found in our children’s world here in the US, each chapter also contains a suggestion about an Israeli connection and Hebrew vocabulary to fit the theme.
Good luck!

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posted April 20, 2010 at 12:09 pm

For us its easy as my husband is Israeli and at four, the girls have already been t Israel twice and are asking to go back. LOL
For the day-to-day stuff, though, we listent o Israeli music, speak Hebrew, read Hebrew books, have pictures (both from our trips and artists pictures), maps and the like.

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posted April 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Interesting year this is. Last night D told us that he was ready to visit Yisrael. He’s in K. S who is in 1st agreed ( as long as I brought along Dramamine.). We primarily listen to Hebrew music and until the end of the year they are in the Jewish day school. We struggle with the comlications of a modern day relationship with Israel and ultimately feel that nothing short of a visit will do, much as the need for a visit to the country of their birth will be necessary for them to make true Guatemalan connection.

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posted April 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I want my kids to feel an attachment, a connection to and a love for Israel — the land, the people, the culture, the place! While I assume that someday they will be critical of and frustrated by her leaders, as am I, for now my hope for them is much less complicated. We have Israeli art on our walls, we sing Hebrew songs and have Israeli music (both kids music and modern pop/rock) we read Hebrew books (both Israeli children’s books and English books translated into Hebrew), we know and love and spend time with Israelis! We talk about and to and skype with and write letters to our friends who live in Israel. I speak Hebrew with them sometimes, and use Hebrew words for certain things. We talk about our visits to Israel and plan for our family to visit together some day… It is simply something we care about and talk about and is present in our lives. I have no idea how that will play out in the future, but for now, I am actually satisfied knowing that my boys are growing attached, connected to and in love with Israel! B’hatzlacha!

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Julie Chivo

posted April 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

This is what I do to help my kids feel connected to Israel:
1. We took a 10-day family trip to Israel last year with our children then aged five and 8.
2. I now keep the photo album from the trip in a place of honor in the living room.
2. I have always kept a map of Israel on our refrigerator, near all the other important things that we keep there. I can always take it down and point out a spot to my kids if we hear about it on the radio. I also keep a chart of the Alef-Bet hanging up there, too.
3. I had placemats laminated at Staples with our ticket stubs and other items we picked up in Israel. I will use them to set the table tonight for dinner. You could also laminate pictures, maps, other Israel related objects.
4. We use the words Boker Tov, Laila Tov, bevacasha, toda raba, cos mayim, etc. whenever possible to give our kids a connection to Hebrew.
5. If I had been more ambitious, I would have bought the ingredients for an Israeli salad to serve tonight.
6. We bought Jaffa oranges recently and talked about how they came from Israel.
Every little bit helps! Good luck.

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Julie Chivo

posted April 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

one more: We are planning to send my daughter to a Young Judaea movement camp this summer.

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Debra Markovic (JKidLA)

posted April 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Beautifully expressed, and so important to ask these kinds of questions- Jewish Day School, Camp Ramah, a couple of family trips and the fact that their parents met and fell in love with each other in Israel (and still talk about it all the time) worked for my kids! Now that they’re older, we don’t shy away from being honest and forthcoming about our conflicted feelings, which mirror yours. As you point out, relationships are messy, this being no exception. Thanks so much, Amy, for your ever-relevant and thought-provoking posts!

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Lori Sagarin

posted April 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm

First of all I want to applaud you for even asking the question. As a Jewish educator with a particular interest in Israel education I am heartened by the question and the concern.
I want to direct you to . The iCenter is the address for innovation in Israel engagement for North American youth K-12. Through the iCenter you will find many resources that will help you on your quest to provide meaningful connections for your child.
There are some wonderful books, Sammy Spider visits Israel, And Shira Imagined that can help to forge connections. Frankly, bible stories for children can also be used as a method for fostering connections to the Land of Israel..and then, when you and your family visit, as I truly hope you will, the sites of the bible can come alive for your children!
Finally, learning Hebrew, even simple Hebrew words can begin to forge a relationship with Israel. You can present this as this is our language, as Jews, who were once called Hebrews, this is our birthright and we are going to learn some words together. There are wonderful programs for teaching small children on the computer as well as the Behrman House website, which has great games and activities for simple Hebrew learning.
Lori B. Sagarin, RJE

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Everlasting Love « Frume Sarah's World

posted April 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Frume Sarah

posted April 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I loved this post and love the responses!! Loved this post so much that I quoted you in my post on Israel and my kids.
I talk about Israel. My experiences in Israel. My parents talk about their experiences. We listen to Israeli music and read books (like that ravenous catapillar!) in Hebrew.

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Minnesota Mamaleh: Clink! to Israel | TC Jewfolk

posted April 23, 2010 at 9:02 am


posted April 25, 2010 at 12:16 am

I engaged Israeli Au pairs exclusively for many years when my children were young. They were as diverse as the country herself… Warm, loving, prickly, passionate, aloof. We got to know some of their families in Israel and still keep in touch an visit. There were many other school and camp organized activities and trips, but this added a personal dimension.

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