As we mourn the barbaric attack by Hamas on Israel on the last day of Sukkot in 2023, we also witness an extraordinary solidarity within the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of people are assisting their fellow Jews in these times of distress, despite the ongoing danger. Providing care to the wounded, comforting the bereaved, sending food packages, financially supporting struggling families… Do all these forces have a common origin? Are they specific to the Jewish people? These questions will be the focus of our study, which explores the obligation of solidarity and responsibility incumbent upon members of the Jewish people. Examples and uplifting stories, followed by the account of a 7-year-old girl named Hadar from Sderot, living near the Gaza border, aim to sensitize students to the needs and feelings of others. The teacher will invite the class to create a collective mutual aid system. Active participation by each student in such a project will provide a sense of meaning and accomplishment.
To capture the students’ attention, present the following two scenarios as a trigger (adding details to make them vivid).
Write prominently on the whiteboard the Hebrew phrase “כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה” (Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Bazeh) and explain its meaning. The teacher should emphasize that the Jewish people are responsible for one another (originally, this expression pertains to a Jew’s obligation to ensure that others observe the Torah laws). By extension (and this is the subject of our lesson), this expression has become a symbol of solidarity and empathy. The teacher should ask her students what the connection is between the two stories presented in the introduction with the Hebrew phrase of כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה.
While recounting (without going into too much detail) the current events in Israel, ask the question: Based on what has happened, should Jews outside of Israel be concerned and responsible for what is happening in the Land of Israel?
Teacher note: According to Sefer Hasidim, an important medieval Jewish text of piety and moral instruction, the phrase כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה brings with it an actual obligation that Jews must share in each other’s suffering and pray on their behalf!
The teacher should lead a discussion with her students leading with the following questions –
How should we act in accordance with this precept?
What are the different ways to express our suffering for others?
What good deeds should we perform that relate to mutual responsibility?
Focus on current events by providing examples and stories that illustrate the extraordinary mutual aid in these tragic times!
Ask students to suggest ways that people could act that demonstrates the idea of areivut – responsibility for someone in need.
Answers might include: offering messages of support; sending packages of food and supplies; daily prayers; and creating a WhatsApp group to inform people to visit the sick or support grieving families.
The teacher should emphasize the importance that everyone should care for each other in times of joy or sorrow. It is essential to feel empathy to more easily identify the needs and feelings of others.
Hadar’s story, a 7-year-old living in Sderot near Gaza, can sensitize the students. See Appendix 4. Appendices 1-3 (photo of a missile shelter; recording of the siren in case of an alert; image of the window shutters of a safe room) help students visualize the concepts mentioned in the story that are likely unfamiliar to the young non-Israeli audience.
Students should then be asked to answer the following questions:
What challenges does Hadar face?
If you could speak to her or write to her, how would you encourage her?
Write a fictitious letter to Hadar on the board. Ask each student to contribute a line or two.
The teacher, at this point in the lesson, should make the point that until now we have learned about the importance of being responsible for a Jew in need. But, now present students with an action challenge.
Pose – What can WE do in relation to what we have studied?
Project Launch – Create an action plan for the students to do as a class whereby they will discover their capacity for selflessness. Have students develop a list of possible initiatives they can do to be helpful to Jews in Israel. Once the list is compiled, conduct a classroom discussion about the ideas and their feasibility. Ultimately, have the class vote on one or two they plan to do with the teacher’s guidance and oversight.
Conclude the lesson by stressing with students that the solidarity of the Jewish people allows everyone to feel as if they are an integral part of the our people, never abandoned, and always supported by one another. Bring the lesson back to the expression “כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה” (Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Bazeh) – All Jews are responsible for one another.
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