In the afternoon, we were treated with another encounter with a leading cultural figure - best-selling and highly acclaimed Israeli writer Etgar Keret.
Etgar read the first story he ever wrote (while serving in the army), and discussed his writing, Israeli and Jewish literature, his family, and his thoughts about Israel, Jewish peoplehood, and Judaism. The session was both thought-provoking and hilarious (especially stories about his family - his Holocaust survivor father who, while serving in the 6 Day War, mistook a group of Egyptian soldiers for Israelis and ended up cooking them breakfast, and his brother, serving in the Lebanon War, who was ordered to guard an antenna, and ended up turning it into a totem pole out of boredom and was convicted of paganism).
Keret, who employs magical realism and absurdism in his work, says he likes to create confusion among his readers. "If I lived in a land of the confused, maybe I would want to create certainty. But I live in the land of the certain, where everyone is convinced. So I like to create some uncertainty."
School groups then re-convened for one last time to review gleanings from the day and the week. Later, each school shared with the entire group their key outcomes from the week.
As each school delegation shared their feedback, it became clear that the forum had had a far more powerful impact on the participants than I had imagined.
Some of the outcomes we observed and heard about:
- School groups coalesced and established a common language for discussing Israel in their schools. Some of the school groups came as disparate individuals and left as a coherent team with common and well understood purpose;
- Participants obtained practical tools that they felt they could bring back to their schools and use in their educational practice;
- Many spoke about the development during the week of a vision for Israel education in their schools, of big ideas that could be applicable to their efforts. One example - the focus on "peoplehood" - for several, our intensive study and consideration of this concept was helpful in their articulation of the relevance of Israel studies in their school community. Others pointed to their exposure to the power of school partnerships in permeating the school culture in deep and unexpected ways.
- Educators shared with each other, across school boundaries. Affinity groups placed Jewish studies teachers, general studies teachers, school professional leaders and lay leaders together to discuss common challenges - this had never happened before among day schools in northern California.
- It was lost on no one that, by the end of the week, we were left with a community of Israel educators in Northern California. Eighty educators, parents, and lay leaders who experienced something profound together, and who were prepared to work together to advance Israel education among all the day schools of our community.
People spoke from the heart, they composed and read poetry, and they sang. We sang Havdalah together, saying goodbye to Shabbat and to each other. Scott Copeland of Makom quoted Philip Roth, who wrote what many BASIS participants had experienced and were feeling:
"Israel...was personalized for me through individuals and their anguish and their struggle. Here was a place in which everything mattered. Because the issue was an issue of survival, of life and death...All this Jewish turbulence. I wanted it to tumble through me."