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Making Visible the Nakba: A U.S.-Based Education Project

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Since 2002, the Israeli NGO Zochrot ("Remembering" in Hebrew) has attempted to broaden Jewish Israelis' understanding of the events that took place in the period before, during, and after the creation of the State of Israel. Inspired by the work of Zochrot, a group of educators has come together to create the Nakba Education Project U.S., which "aims to educate U.S. Jews and a general U.S. audience about the foundational event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what the state of Israel calls the War of Independence and Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe)."

The story of the Nakba has been well-documented by Palestinian as well as Israeli and other international sources. However, not only within Israel but also in the U.S. and within the American Jewish community, the story of the Nakba and what happened is often disregarded, focusing, instead, on the creation of Israel as a safe haven for Jews, without acknowledging the dispossession of the Palestinian people that began with the founding of the state.

Zochrot created a study guide for educators to use with Jewish-Israeli students called "How Do You Say Nakba in Hebrew." Drawing upon Zochrot's resources, the Nakba Education Project U.S. has developed its own curriculum to provide an opportunity to learn about what happened prior to and during 1948, to address its consequences and impact, and to deepen our analysis and explore what it means for our own political activism and the possibility for justice in Palestine and Israel.

The six-part curriculum begins with an exploration of participants' personal relationships to the Nakba and presents an historical overview of the events of 1947-1948. It also includes testimonies from both Israeli Jews and Palestinians who actually lived through it and addresses the question of how we assess such personal testimonies. Finally, it considers how the Nakba impacts Palestinian life today, both within the Green Line and the Occupied Territories as well as in the Palestinian diaspora, and looks at Palestinian refugees, international law, and the right of return from a range of perspectives.

This is not only a story of the past. In fact, the Nakba continues to this day. As Zochrot's website notes, "Physical remains continue to be destroyed, the names of Palestinian localities are missing from the map and from the landscape, and even the memory of Palestinian life that was once here has almost no echo in Israeli public discourse."

In the coming several weeks, the Nakba Education Project's curriculum and teaching guide will be made available online to educators and activists.

(I am one of five members of the NEP coordinating committee. The other members include Michal Alter, Nava EtShalom, Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark, and Rabbi Alissa Wise. I have drawn from the Nakba Education Project website and materials for this post. You can contact the project at