Whose Narrative?

Six weeks ago we retold our Exodus from Egypt. We remembered our harsh lives under the rule of the evil pharaoh and our miraculous release from slavery. God performed miracles; our enemies were punished; we were freed. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
I recently read a graphic novel on our Exodus from the perspective of the Ancient Egyptians. It told the story of the wonderful pharaoh—the family man pharaoh, looking to build a mighty empire to leave to his son. It discussed the horrible atrocities that fell upon his people by the ungrateful Israelites and their vindictive God. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
Of course, there are no longer any Ancient Egyptians, so no one to actually share their narrative. That side of the story has essentially been erased from history, for “history is written by victors,” and our tradition teaches that our history was written by God. (I’ll leave this topic for the rabbis and theologians.)
Stories are complicated. Well-told stories involve nuance and perspective. Really well-told stories bring in multiple perspectives, offering the listener opportunities to thoughtfully consider viewpoints before drawing conclusions.
This week, one of our Unpacking Israel high school students shared with me a 10-minute video on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shown in his history class. In an effort to be unbiased, this video lacked any perspective or nuance. It neither covered the Israeli narrative nor the Palestinian narrative. (I could argue that it leans slightly to the Palestinian view, but I have an admitted strong Israeli bias.)
And here we come to the crux of our problem. Our students are not learning about the conflict in a meaningful way and suffer on social media and college campuses because of it. There is an Israeli narrative and there is a Palestinian narrative, and there is nuance. We need our kids to hear it all, wrestle with ideas and draw conclusions. If they’re going to hear about checkpoints, then they need to learn about terrorism. If they’re going to hear about disproportionate responses, then they need to learn about indiscriminate rocket fire. If they’re going to hear about occupation, then they need to learn about the Six Day War and Oslo Accords. If they’re going to hear about a two-state solution, then they need to hear about the partition plan. A ten-minute YouTube video cannot do this job.
While on my soapbox, I’m going to plug our monthly Unpacking Israel for high school students program. Last week we learned how to identify “fake” news—whose narrative are we listening to and what facts are we missing? Should we respond to false or blatantly biased social media posts, and if so, how?
Our next program will be Sunday, June 12, at 1:15 p.m.
Note: Perspective and nuance should not be confused with evil and senseless violence as we mourn the victims of the horrific shootings in Uvalde, Texas, this week and Buffalo, New York, last week.
This weekend, we remember those who courageously gave their lives and honor our nation’s heroes. We cannot thank you enough for your service.
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