Ethical and Political Foundations

Curriculum development is not a neutral process, and education cannot be separated from ethical or political values. Educators make many decisions in writing curricula that reflect their own values and perspectives. These include the overarching goals and desired outcomes of the curriculum, questions that frame the lessons or units, experiences or events that are emphasized, and resource materials that are selected.

This curriculum states the values upon which it is based so that educators can decide whether to use it with their students. When examining the meaning of Israel for Jews, the curriculum affirms the flourishing of Jewish life in Israel, the deep religious significance of the land, the revival of Hebrew language and culture, and the diversity of Jews and Jewish religious expression.

Given that Jewish Israelis live alongside Palestinians, and that Israel is a modern nation-state, it also emphasizes the following principles:

  • All people living in the region deserve to be treated equally and with respect. They have a right to safety and a dignified life.
  • State and civil institutions should uphold universal human rights, international law, and democratic systems of governance.
  • Violence against civilians is morally unacceptable.
  • A just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible.

Asking students to grapple with these principles is a way to honor the Jewish tradition of wrestling with difficult questions, teach students how to think critically and self-reflectively, and prepare students to become engaged members of their communities.

To that end, educators may wish to ask their students:

  • What do equal treatment, respect, safety, and a dignified life look like in practice? Are lapses in these principles ever defensible?
  • In what ways do state and civil institutions both uphold and fail to uphold universal human rights, international law, and democratic systems of governance?
  • Is violence ever justified? If so, under what circumstances? Is nonviolence effective as a practical stance?
  • Does believing in the possibility of a just and lasting resolution shape one’s political positions?

These questions have no simple answers, but students and educators alike will benefit from discussing them.