Israel Module - Israel Lesson 6: Holiness & Spirituality

Time Allotment:

50 minutes


Copies of the following photographs by Zion Ozeri:

Printer with 8”x10” photo paper
Copies of Israel worksheets_6A“Holiness and Spirituality: Introductory Worksheet” (one per pair)
Copies of Israel Worksheet 6B“Holiness and Spirituality: Photograph Worksheet” (one per pair) 



Prior to entering class, write the following quotations on the classroom board:

Holiness is the descent of divinity into the midst of our concrete world.

-Joseph Soloveitchik, American rabbi and philosopher (1903-1993) 

When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.
-Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher (1878-1965)

Big Idea:

This lesson explores “holiness” and “spirituality,” and encourages students to think critically about how we experience these ethereal concepts. How do we determine who, what, or where is holy or spiritual? What role do the holy and the spiritual play among people of different religions and cultures in Israel, and how do these experiences overlap despite the differences? How have students experienced holiness and spirituality in their own lives, and specifically in Israel?

Learning Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

  • identify people, places, objects, and activities that students consider “holy” or “spiritual,” and interpret two Jewish texts focusing on these concepts;
  • analyze photographs that represent holiness and spirituality as experienced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel, and discuss the experience of holiness and spirituality in Israel;
  • photograph people, places, and objects in which they sense holiness and spirituality;
  • select one of their photographs for display, and explain in writing how it expresses holy and/or spiritual qualities;
  • display photographs and paragraphs in a public photography exhibit.

Warm-Up/Introduction Activity (12 minutes):

  1. When students enter class, ask them to define “holy” ( defines holy as “specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion”) and “spiritual” (defined as “of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature”).
  2. Next, divide students into pairs and have them complete the “Holiness and Spirituality: Introductory Worksheet.” Explain that in each column, students should write down people, places, objects, and activities that they would classify as holy or spiritual. After five minutes, ask students to share their ideas. Jot them down on the board. Discuss:
    – Are certain items on the list inherently holy or spiritual?
    – Can something be holy without being spiritual?
    – Can something be spiritual without being holy?
  3. Finally, read the quotations on the board aloud. What does each quotation mean? Ask students to share examples of ways in which they have experienced “holiness” and “spirituality” as described in the quotations.


Photography Analysis Activity (20 minutes):

  1. Give each pair of students one of Zion Ozeri’s photographs to examine and a copy of the “Holiness and Spirituality: Photograph Worksheet.” Have each pair discuss their photograph and complete the worksheet.
  2. After a few minutes, give each pair a chance to share its photograph and worksheet responses briefly with the class. Encourage questions and comments.
  3. Discuss as a class:
    – What are the qualities that make a place holy?
    – What makes Israel—and specific places in Israel—holy? Is Israel’s holy quality tied into its history, the land, communities, something else?
    – What’s the difference between a holy place and a holy space?
    – How can we create holy spaces? What’s the role of community in creating holy space?
    – These photographs show Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel experiencing holiness and spirituality. Do you think their experiences differ in any way (other than the details of their particular religions)? Or are the experiences of holiness and spirituality universal? How can Israel be holy to multiple religions?
    – Where have students had holy or spiritual experiences? How can they describe those experiences?


Student Photography Activity (15 minutes):

  1. Explain to students that they will be participating as the featured photographers in a class exhibit about holiness and spirituality.
  2. Send students out in the school or synagogue, or outside, to take photographs of people, places, and objects that they find particularly holy and/or spiritual. (Alternately, take students together to specific spots to take their photographs.) Encourage students to take a lot of pictures so they will have several to select from when creating their exhibition.
  3. Students will probably need additional time to complete their photography as homework or during subsequent class periods.


Wrap Up (3 minutes):

Ask students to share some of the people, places, and objects they photographed. How did they attempt to capture a sense of holiness or spirituality in their images?



Each student should select one photograph to include in the class photography exhibit and print it out to 8”x10” size. He or she should also write a paragraph to display along with the photograph, addressing the following questions: What is happening in the photograph? How is holiness or spirituality captured in this photograph? Why is the subject of this photograph important to you?

Photographs can be mounted on mats or colored construction paper and displayed, along with typed explanatory paragraphs, in a school hallway, foyer, or other visible area for others to tour and enjoy. For more information about mounting an exhibition, click here [link to section of main curriculum that provides exhibit info].


Extension Activities:

  • Interview a rabbi and a clergy member from a different religion about their views on holiness and spirituality. Write a newspaper article focusing on ways in which their views overlap and differ.
  • Write a narrative of an experience that you had that was deeply holy or spiritual.