Israel Module - Israel Lesson 2: Past and Present

Time Allotment:

50 minutes


Copies of Israel worksheet 2A: “Past and Present: Introductory Activity” (one per student)
Computer with Internet access, to play audio or video of HaTikvah and HaEmunah
Classroom board
Copies of Israel worksheets_2B: “Past and Present: Jewish Texts” (one per student)
Related photographs by Zion Ozeri (one copy of each):

Internet access
Six pieces of poster board
Glue or tape (for mounting photographs on poster board)
Printers with photo paper 


Prior to class, download audio or video of the songs HaTikvah and HaEmunah to a classroom computer and prepare them so that they are easily accessible for the Introductory Activity.Prior to class, download audio or video of the songs HaTikvah and HaEmunah to a classroom computer and prepare them so that they are easily accessible for the Introductory Activity.

Big Idea:

 The focus of this lesson is the strong connection in Judaism and in Israel between the past and the present. Why does this connection exists – in Jewish religious practice, traditions, symbols, holidays, texts, art, and in the history and land of Israel – in such a prominent way? Why does our history implore us to learn from our past in order for the Jewish people and the State of Israel to flourish now and in the future?

Learning Objectives:

 In this lesson, students will:

  • compare and contrast the poems-turned-songs HaTikvah (התקוה) and HaEmunah (האמונה), focusing on how they offer different but important perspectives on connecting the past and present of the Jewish people and the State of Israel;
  • analyze two Jewish texts to further understand how the connection between the past and present are central to Jewish identity;
  • draw connections between pairs of photographs that expand on the past-present dynamic visually;
  • identify relationships between the Jewish texts and photographs of Israel examined in the lesson;
  • explore, through photographs and creative writing, how objects in students’ homes link past and present.


Warm-Up/Introduction Activity (15 minutes):

  1. Divide students into small groups, and distribute Israel Worksheet 2A: “Past and Present: Introductory Activity.” Ask students if they recognize either of these poems-turned-songs (they should immediately recognize HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem.) Explain that Naftali Peretz Imber, a Jewish poet from what is now Ukraine, probably wrote the words to the poem HaTikvah in the late 1870s, and the version of the poem that we sing as the Israeli national anthem is a shortened version. Rav Kook, an extremely influential Israeli scholar and rabbi, wrote HaEmunah as a response to HaTikvah, feeling that HaTikvah’s words were too secular (non-religious).
  2. Listen to the audio or video of HaTikvah (
  3. Then, have each group read and discuss both poems on the worksheet, using the questions in the boxes to the right of the poems as a guide. After their group discussions, each group should complete the Venn diagram (page 2 of the worksheet) to show visually how the poems both overlap and differ. Students should then share their ideas with the class, and a class-wide version of the Venn diagram can be created on the classroom board.
  4. Explain that the focus of today’s lesson is the strong connection between the past and the present in Judaism and in Israel. How do these two poems reflect that link?


Text Discussion (10-15 minutes):

  1. Distribute the “Past and Present: Jewish Texts” worksheet and have a student read aloud the quotation from Yitzhak Shamir.
    – Why is this idea important to the Jewish people?
    – How does it apply to the State of Israel?
    – What examples from the past can students identify that we must learn from in order to “prepare for the future”?
  2. Next, read the poem “My Heart Is in the East” by Yehuda Halevi. Explain that Halevi was a Spanish poet who lived from about 1085 to 1141, and that he traveled to the Land of Israel towards the end of his life to fulfill his lifelong dream of making Aliyah.
    – How does this poem speak to Halevi’s yearning to live in Israel?
    – What emotion does the poem evoke through its words?
    – Why might he be unable to enjoy what he eats?
    – What “vows and bonds” has he “rendered”? What does this mean?
    – What do the references to Edom and the chains of Arabia mean?
    – How does the last line of the poem reflect how Halevi feels about the deep connection between the past of the Jewish people and the present?
  3. Discuss how we as Jews remember and honor the tribulations and victories of our ancestors in modern times. Why is this so important? Brainstorm examples of how we do this through holidays, rituals, and symbols. Why is connecting to our past so central to being Jewish – and to being modern Jews? Similarly, why is connecting to the history of Eretz Yisrael important to us today?


Photo Activity (15 minutes):

  1. Divide students into six groups, and give each group one of the following pairs of photographs by Zion Ozeri:
    Homa V’migdal Replica,Kibbutz Nir Zvi, 1998
    Water Tower, Zichron Ya’akov, Israel, 2010
    Gravesite of Eliezer Ben Yehudah, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel, 2010
    General Uzi Narkis, Zion Gate, Jerusalem, Israel, 1997
    Rabbi Tarfon Street, Tel-Aviv, Israel, 2013
    Established 1930, Kfar Vitkin, Israel, 2010
    A War Hero and a Legend, Givat Hatachmoshet, Jerusalem, Israel, 1997
    Ben Gurion’s Grave, Sde Boker, Israel, 2009
    Old City Alleyway, Jerusalem, Israel, 2005
    Old and New, Jerusalem, Israel, 2010
    In Basel I Established the Jewish State, Basel Square, Tel-Aviv, Israel
    Herzl’s Barber Shop, Ra’anana, Israel, 2013
  2. Direct students to discuss in their groups how their photographs are related and how they juxtapose the past and present. To better understand the location and people captured in their photographs, students may need access to the Internet to conduct some basic research.
  3. Then, give each group a piece of poster board, markers and glue or tape to create a presentation poster comparing their two photographs. Students should mount their photographs on the posters so that one is on the left and one is on the right. The names of the photographs should be clearly written above them. In the space between the photographs, students should create a list of ways in which the two photographs are related. The list may include repeated images, ideas, people and themes. Below each photograph, students should write how the concept of “past and present” is visually represented.
  4. Students should present their posters to the class. Allow time for further discussion.


Wrap Up/Review (5 minutes):

How do the photographs seen in class relate to any of the texts read in class (HaTikvah, HaEmunah, the Yitzhak Shamir quotation, “My Heart Is in the East”)?



Each student should choose an object in his or her home that is an important relic from the family’s history (e.g., an heirloom that has been passed down, a specific piece of jewelry or artwork or piece of Judaica, etc.) Instruct students to take a series of photographs of the object, both by itself and with different family members (including different generations). Students should try to capture its importance as a piece of family history in the past and in the present. Then, students should “write the object’s story,” from those who first possessed it through its journey to their home. Students may write from the perspective of the object itself or from that of any person who ever owned it, and should reflect on its significance in connecting the past with the present. Photographs and stories should be shared in a future class.


Extension Activities:

  • Read and analyze Naftali Hertz Imber’s poem Tikvatenu, the poem that was excerpted to create HaTikvah. What does the poem add to the poet’s greater vision of Israel, Zionism in general, and the connection between past and present? Create a PowerPoint presentation or other visual presentation that explores all nine stanzas of the poem and incorporates photographs from around Israel to illustrate its themes.
  • Interview older family members about their memories of how a Jewish holiday was celebrated when he or she was a child, such as the Passover seder, building the sukkah, or celebrating Chanukah. What similarities and differences can you find between the past and present of this holiday in your family? How do you hope to continue traditions and make new ones with your own family in the future? Document the “past, present, and future” of this holiday in a written story, and incorporate related photographs or drawings to help tell the story.