It all started with a standard educators’ meeting at Dror Israel’s Social High School in Tel Aviv. Like every year, the challenge of marking the national memorial day of Israel’s former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l arose in discussion. And just like most ideas thought up at the Social High School, not many could have imagined what would become of that simple discussion amongst educators only a few weeks later.
The assassination of Rabin z”l marks for many Israelis and Jews around the world a breaking point in the young country’s democracy. A point in which a people must stop and evaluate what led them to this moment and decide how to move forward. For many Dror Israel educators at the Social High School in Tel Aviv, the event is a formative memory in their childhood and young teenage years. Their sense of responsibility to Israeli society and their desire for a more just Israel is linked back to that tragic night in Tel Aviv.
But for the more than 150 students at the Social High School, the period of incitement leading up to Rabin’s murder and the actual assassination is no more than a short chapter in their history books. They were born more than 10 years later, to a different Israeli society - one in which peace is a lofty word and the assassination of a Prime Minister at the hands of a fellow Jew is very much a possibility. Their educators took it upon themselves to understand how best to bridge this generational gap and connect this tragic event to their students’ current reality and a hope for the future.
Dror Israel’s Social High School in Tel Aviv is just one of seven Dror Israel High Schools located across the country. While the primary target population for Dror Israel schools is youth at risk, other students in many municipalities opt in, attracted by the high quality education and intense focus by teachers on a child’s holistic development, not only on tests and grades. Students at the Tel Aviv Social High School come from diverse backgrounds and participate in innovative vocational tracks of agro-ecology, audio production, new media and photography.
In line with their general pedagogical approach, the educators invited their students to become active agents in their studies and create together the activities and lessons for the memorial day for Rabin z”l at their school. Right from the start, educators and a few students from each of the grades researched, planned and prepared for the commemorative day that would involve the entire school. Together, they decided to focus their day on the sometimes seemingly contradictory notion of a Jewish-Democratic state.
The day was comprised of a series of experiential programs, including a viewing of the 2019 Yaron Zilberman film “Incitement”, in which the students learned about the period of time leading up to Rabin’s murder. The educator and student teams leading the day skillfully brought up tensions that exist in a Jewish and democratic society and explored together different dangers that threaten Israel’s democracy. The students leading the day invited and challenged the rest of the student body to think of themselves as partners in shaping Israeli society with their everyday actions in their classrooms and communities and their goals for their futures. They brainstormed different ways in which they can influence society and promote a more democratic Israel in 2022.
While leading a peer group poses many challenges for any high school student (in addition to the difficult topic at hand), it was important for the Social High School educators that the way in which this meaningful day was run was in and of itself, an expression of its educational message - by choosing to take responsibility for oneself and for others, one can become a partner in making a just and more democratic society.