Combating Apathy to Israel: Chabad's New Israel Awareness Course
by Noelle Forde
(IsraelNN.com) Chabad has launched a free Israel: The Land and the Spirit course in an attempt to fight growing apathy among young Jews in the Diaspora towards Israel and connect them with the Promised Land.
The course, launched by the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) of Chabad in October in 750 locations around the world, is different from programs such as Birthright, according to Chabad. It explores "the nature of the deep spiritual bond that has existed between the Jewish people and the land of Israel" from the time of Abraham to today, 60 years after the re-establishment of the Jewish state.
Another study, based on the 2007 National Survey of American Jews and focusing on “the alienation from Israel" by young Jews, revealed that not even half of the study’s non-Orthodox, American participants under the age of 35 would feel the demolition of Israel to be a personal tragedy. Only 54% are even comfortable with the idea of a Jewish State.
"Chabad is deeply concerned by the study's findings, as is everyone in the Jewish communal world," commented course editor Dr. Hana Silberstein. "We need to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to begin to reverse this growing indifference to Israel… The Israel: The Land and the Spirit course is a strong step in that direction."
In an interview with Arutz-7 radio, Baltimore Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan commented, "Beaches...technology…science - these things are not adequate to tie a young American Jew to the land of Israel… People should understand that if you are a Jew and you consider your life as a Jew and your spiritual life as a Jew, Israel is a vital part of it."
The six-week course has gone through two years of preparation and is free for students under 30. It includes "texts [ranging] from the late Chabad sage Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to Natan Sharansky, and from the sages of the Talmud to opinion writers in contemporary newspapers,” according to Sir Martin Gilbert, a leading British historian and official biographer of Winston Churchill. He has endorsed the course, terming it "a fascinating range of religious and secular texts [that] will serve a noble cause in stimulating thought and encouraging understanding."
The course's first lesson, "The Promised Land," deals with G-d’s promise to Abraham that his children will inherit the land of Israel, and answers the question, "Why was the land promised even before the nation existed?" The course then explores the life of the people of Israel in the days of the Holy Temples, when the lifestyle was linked with agriculture. It then delves into the concept of a land being holy and how a legitimate claim to the land is made.
After examining the vision of a Jewish state and whether Israel is meant to be different from other nations, the course catches up with modern Israel and the Diaspora, exploring the bond with Israel among Jews all over the world.