I spent several days this week blissfully removing myself from all intense thoughts and deep explorations, and sojourned in my ultimate happy place: the stretch of Tel Aviv coast between Bograshov and Frischman, where the water is warm, the energy is high, and the ice cafe somehow tastes better with a hint of sand particles in it. After jam-packed mornings of swimming, sitting, napping, and then cooling off with another swim, I wandered up and down the tayelet [boardwalk], dodging bicyclists and trying to figure out if there was more sea or sweat dripping off my body. In these wanderings, I came across one of Israel's new investments in what I can only assume is fodder for Instagram selfies: the figure of David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, standing on his head.
The founding father was known for this unique eccentricity, and like all of the other Americans on the beach, I couldn't resist snapping a photo. But then I walked down a bit more, and less than twenty feet away was another marker altogether. This one has been there since I was a child - the memorial for the Altalena Affair. The Altalena, on one foot, was a ship at the center of a violent conflict between the nascent Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun, one of the paramilitary groups that existed prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. The Irgun, which was headed by future Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was a right-wing militia, that today is probably best known for orchestrating the bombing of the King David Hotel during the British Mandate. Begin was the ultimate counterpoint to Ben Gurion, and when he ordered weapons to be transported to Israel via the Altalena, it escalated quickly. I've included resources below for anyone who's interested in learning more about the complexities of the Altalena, but the end result is as follows: Ben Gurion ordered IDF soldiers to fire on the ship rather than allowing it to land, and several soldiers fired on their fellow Jews from the Irgun. Begin, in order to avoid a civil war, surrendered, rather than fight back, and sixteen Irgun fighters, as well as 3 IDF soldiers, died in the confrontation.
For years, this story was a controversial flashpoint in Israeli left/right discourse. As members of the founding generations have died, it's become less so, but for years, there were raw wounds about the role that Ben Gurion played in ordering Jews to fire on fellow Jews as part of a political standoff. Which brings me back to my jaunt on the beach. The statue of Ben Gurion wasn't placed on Ben Gurion Beach, or at any of the other numerous points along the coastline. Instead, it was placed adjacent to the Altalena memorial, which got me thinking about how, as educators, every choice we make needs to come with thought and intentionality.
First, a disclaimer: I am 100% aware that I am one of the only people thinking this deeply into the placement of a cartoon for photo ops. Thousands of people pass this every day, and don't see it as anything noteworthy. Additionally, I have no knowledge of the motivations for placing the statue where it is - it could be an oversight, an attempt at bridging the gap between the factions, or a provocation. I have no idea.
But no matter what the motivation was, it made me realize that every choice we make reverberates. The quotes we use to frame lessons. The videos we share, the song lyrics we use to teach Hebrew, the personalities we highlight when exploring history and current events. As educators, the content that we curate for our learners gives us tremendous power to shape their minds and ultimately to influence their understandings of the world. It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I know we don't take lightly. So when I create my next curriculum, I want to think about what I'm including, and what I'm not, what I'm highlighting, and what it juxtaposes with.
How do you make content decisions as an educator? What criteria do you use? Please share in the comments below!