June 9, 2017

GOA Students Critical of Blind Defense of Israel

Jordan Mayor ‘18

Respect and love for Israel is a major focus of the Golda Och Academy experience.
Throughout their four years of high school, students attend annual Israel celebrations, participate in monthly organized activities by Israeli teen emissaries and even take part in two school trips to the Israel itself. The Israel Club holds weekly meetings devoted to discussing the country. A deep, passionate love for Israel is ingrained within students by the time they graduate.
Beginning from a young age, the love of and an unconditional commitment to Israel can be seen. At the Celebrate Israel Parade, young GOA students can be seen marching and waving the Israeli flag proudly. For many GOA students, Israel has always been an essential part of their school and home lives.
“I cannot remember a time when I did not love Israel,” junior Sam Russo, a leader in GOA’s Israel community commented. “The country has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.”
This sentiment was echoed by the president and other members of Israel Club. As students discussed Israel, the idea that they had “always loved Israel” was repeated numerous times.  
This consistent love for Israel startled several students.
Junior Matan Kogen admitted he, too, has always loved Israel, but raised his own concerns.
“Many students here love Israel and that is beautiful,” he said. “ Unfortunately though, many students here are unable to defend Israel which represents a level of blind love for the country.”
Sophomore David Wingens added, “Blind love can be dangerous.”
Juniors Aaron Pearlstein and Sophie Heimowitz thought the school could do more to decrease students’ blind faith and increase their abilities to properly defend the country.
“Israel is emphasized throughout our time at GOA,” Pearlstein said, “yet the first time we really go in-depth about the history of the country is supposedly our senior year.”
Heimowitz contributed, “I am knowledgeable enough to know there is good reason to support Israel and I am often able to elaborate on those reason, but it is a shame I have not learned about major moments in the country's history yet.”
She believes that there is a lack of knowledge surrounding key moments in Israel’s history like the Independence War, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
Aside from the issue of students’ blind faith,  many people were concerned with students preparedness in regards to facing a growing Israel opposition on college campuses.
Junior Maya Robbins considered herself knowledgeable regarding Israel history, but acknowledged that, if faced by an opponent critical of Israel, she was not sure she could successfully defend the country.
“Being able to successfully defend anything takes extensive knowledge,” Robbins said, “and I am not sure I have gained that knowledge yet.”
Robbins also voiced that, while among Golda Och and the surrounding Jewish communities it is accepted that students unconditionally love Israel, this sentiment may not be embraced outside of students’ closed Jewish bubbles.
“Israel is a highly controversial and indeed faulted country,” Robbins said. “It is understandable how many would view the unconditional love of a country, especially one which they disagree with, as off-putting and irrational.”
Students were united in the idea that unconditional love for Israel is not necessarily bad, but there are concerns and responsibilities that come with it. Students also seemed to agree that classes on modern Jewish history before senior year would benefit GOA students relationship with the country and contribute to the school’s overall education.
“We can continue loving Israel,” Kogen said, “but we need to know the facts before we mindlessly defend the State.”

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