by Michele Schulman, Greater New York Regional Manager

Have you ever wanted to lead an Israel program, but didn’t feel qualified enough? That was me. Israel has been a topic I’ve always been interested in, but I’ve always felt like there was someone who was smarter or more knowledgeable about it and therefore I have no business getting involved. So I shied away and only would engage if it was a topic no one could argue with, like falafel. And then I went on the Moishe House & Makom 4HQ Israel Encounters trip this summer and it changed the way I thought about it all. 

So what is 4HQ? 4HQ, or the 4 Hatikvah Questions, are different entry points into the conversation around Israel: 

1) How do we stay safe? (i.e. security)  

2) Who is the “we” and how should “we” behave? (i.e. peoplehood)

3) How can we maintain our freedom?
4) How do we relate to our territory? (i.e. the land)

On our trip, these four questions became the lens for how we would interact with the speakers, educators, and discussions to better understand where the people and ideas originated and their intent. We were able to realize that at times when people discuss the conflict they are approaching the conversation with a specific perspective, for example, with a focus on security, while others are focusing on the rights of individuals. Both of these viewpoints are completely valid and important, but if a conversation is taking place and people are not on the same page while talking about the same issue, it can lead to misunderstandings and ultimately further conflict.

What I learned on 4HQ, most importantly, is that by using this framework it’s possible for anyone to lead Israel programming and be comfortable hosting Israel programs that go beyond hummus.

At Natty Con, Gabrielle Adler, Senior Southern Regional Manager,  and I led a session during “Plus One” (breakout sessions regarding inclusivity and diversity) using this model. We had forty community builders engage with simple activities that we ourselves did on 4HQ in Israel and in that hour had a few non-combative conversations. Cramming one week into one hour didn’t give us much time to dive deeply, but we enabled participants to explore where they already relate to Israel and get them to think about where they can open more diverse space for their communities.

If you weren’t in that session, you may be thinking right now, “Well, how I can learn that too?” An often seen concern  surrounding Israel-related programs is: how do I prevent hostility? First thing first, set clear guidelines while framing conversations. Moishe House 4HQ Coordinator, Meghan Rodarte, put it very simply on day one: “You can visit someone else’s opinion, you don’t have to stay”. For example, if someone invites you to their house and they have a painting you hate, you would never take it off the wall and destroy it? You may look at it, decide how you feel, and move on. Then at the end of the night, you can go back to your own home which you’ve styled to your taste. A difficult conversation can operate the same way.

Another concern is often: “What do I talk about?” When creating a Israel-related program, think about what you already love about Israel. What are you challenged by and what are you still questioning? A good place to start in any kind of program planning is exploring what you’re already thinking about. In this case, you can then figure out where that subject fits into the framework of the 4HQ. When you know where it falls, you can also establish the lens you’d like participants to focus on through the dialogue you’re opening. Alternatively, when you know what lens you’re talking through, you can try to make sure that other lenses are opened in the future. 

Everyone, much like with their own on Jewish identity, comes to the Israel conversation or program from a different place and experience. Every person has different passions and perspectives which shape how they see the whole situation. Still, 4HQ has taught me that it shouldn’t be the reason to not talk about it.

If engaging in Israel is something you want to do, Moishe House wants to support you. Here are some opportunities available to you right now:

If you still have questions about where to go, or are interested in more resources on how to facilitate difficult conversations, talk to your Regional Manager and they will connect with you!