Sometimes You Just Need Mac & Cheese
The world of Israel education is tough. It's filled with hesitancy, intricacies, nuance, backtracking, and fear. It's almost impossible for me to write an article about Israel without stopping to think "am I inserting my own bias?", "am I forgetting something?", or "is anyone going to learn from this?" My biggest question, though, is always the same:
Am I just teaching fluff?
After a while of contemplating this question, wondering if the work I do as an Israel educator was in-depth and nuanced enough, a good friend of mine told me this:
"Sometimes, you need mac 'n cheese, not jalapeño peppers."
She meant it as a joke, I think, but the message was clear: not everything needs to be hot takes and spicy reviews. Sometimes, it's nice to learn about sometime fun and comfortable. To take a break from intensive historical and political study to remember the fun things about Israel. To listen to Omer Adam music, to eat falafel, to celebrate innovations like Mobileye and Watergen, and to laugh at the woes of characters in Srugim. Sometimes, it's important to let go of the stress of prepping our arguments against BDS to remember why we do all of this in the first place.
I first truly became passionate about Israel at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2016, my freshman year of high school and first Policy Conference. I vividly remember watching the simplest of presentations: a segment titled "Israeli Innovations." But, inexplicably, I was mesmerized by this ergonomic wheelchair that helped those confined to wheelchairs to move comfortably, without as many bumps in the road. It wasn't complicated, and it wasn't grand, but Softwheel made me love Israel.
Now, since then, I've come to love learning about Israeli government and policy more than innovation, but every now and then, I have to go back. I have to go back because I need to remind myself that Israel education isn't only about the hard stuff. It's not only about who holds the ministries in Knesset (hint: it's SO many people...) or about which peace plan failed in which year. It's about that, yes, but it's just as much about the wheelchair innovation that brought me to Israel in the first place. It's about appreciating Mizrachi music for how far it's come in the public view, but also just jamming out to "Chaverot Shelach" because it's a bop!
In his book, The Insecurity of Freedom, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote,
"We teach skills, we must also stimulate insight.” (Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom, 46)
We focus so much on teaching how to do things: how to advocate on a college campus, how to stand up against BDS, how to explain the Knesset or current events, and how to be a Zionist. But often what we forget is to stimulate inside: to share the latest releases on the Israeli top charts, to screen Israeli movies, or even just to smile a little when you open a new package of Bamba or Klik.
So, to put it in perspective, we need the mac & cheese and the jalapeño peppers. Sometimes, we even need them together. At least in my opinion, though, jalapeño peppers taste a lot better in mac & cheese than they do on their own.