With his comments about the Israel education he received at a North American Jewish Day School, Seth Rogan landed in more than just An American Pickle (the title of his new movie) and ignited a storm amongst Jewish media outlets and bloggers throughout the world.

Rogan stated that he was ‘fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’. His assessment of his Israel education is likely true, making it both sad and dangerous. According to Rogan, he was never taught that Palestine was home to both Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and that there was a displacement of both peoples (750,000 Palestinian Arabs and 850,000 Jews from Arab countries) during and after the War of Independence in 1948.

I cannot attest to what Rogan’s teachers did or did not say in the Israel classes he attended. What I can attest to, however, is the first class Israel education we have here at Carmel. Building on the Israel program in the Primary school, our Year 10 students are taught about Israel in a way that builds and enhances their love for Israel, an education steeped in historical facts and international legalities. This course was introduced at Carmel in 2017 and it has truly improved and enriched the students’ understanding of and appreciation for the State of Israel and the challenges of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. To devise this course, we have sourced material from books such as Alan Dershowitz’s ‘The Case for Israel’, and ‘1948’ by Benny Morris.

Our approach is neither monolithic nor conformist. Everything is discussed, nothing is off limits; settlements, democratic rights of citizens and non-citizens, division between religion and state, right of return, two state solution, Oslo, Intifada, Gaza, security. Our students learn about Israel’s triumphs, such as the rescue at Entebbe and Operations Moses and Solomon. At the same time, we do not shy away from difficult topics either and we teach our students about Sabra and Shatila, Baruch Goldstein, and the difficulty in reconciling greater Israel with the want to be both a Jewish and a democratic state. Nothing turns a student off more than if they feel they have been lied to or misled. One does not create a love for Israel by painting it as a perfect country; rather Israel is a country based on ethical, moral and democratic principles and when people deviate from these they are brought to account through a robust system of law and accountability.

However there is one point that is not to be debated, and that is Israel’s right to exist. The opinion piece of Peter Beinart (Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic) would not find a place in our teaching of Israel for it outright rejects the notion of a Jewish State in our ancient homeland. We teach our students that Israel does have a right to exist. Yes, there are complexities and difficulties, and Israel is not always perfect, but these should be discussed on the firm basis that the establishment of the State in 1948 was right and just, both then and now.

I am proud of our Israel education at Carmel School. Together with the support of our youth movements, we produce graduates who are both passionate and literate about Israel, and so far, no graduates who, Seth Rogan-style, lament their educational experience.

Shula Lazar