Survivor: Palestine 1880 - 1948

Tu B'Shvat is a wonderful holiday for exploring our connection to the land of Israel. Thus, last week, Akiba-Schechter’s Director of Judaics Studies Rabbi Holman, our B'not Sherut and our P.E. teacher Sara Price created a program for the middle schoolers to take place during their physical education classes called Survivor: Palestine 1880 - 1948.

Draining swamps and building barriers as early settlers
in Palestine

This program had three objectives:

1)     to explore the challenges and experiences of the early Chalutzim (pioneers) and learn a little of the history of the time period;
2)    to take the experiences of the Chalutzim, of working together under difficult conditions, to develop our own cooperative and collaborative problem solving skills;
3)    to tie it all into Tu B'Shvat, and a study role of agriculture and trees in Israel's growth.

On Day One, the students learned about the kinds of people who chose to emigrate to Palestine and the challenges they faced building shelters and draining swamps. They discussed some of the decisions these pioneers made regarding where to settle. The students broke into three teams representing the early settlements of Rishon L'Tziyon, Petach Tikva, and Zichron Yaakov. The groups played team building games that represented some aspect of the discussion, including a "Swamp Draining" game using cut up PVC pipes, and a "Tent Building" game using a parachute. The groups also discussed the challenges the actual Chalutzim struggled with in deciding where to build their settlements, and what crops to plant.

Pioneers get ready to hitch a tent.

On Day Two they talked about developing agriculture and more permanent settlements in the land. The three groups worked on more challenging activities, such as clearing rocks from fields and using them to build barriers (using small plastic balls and cardboard boxes). The students also had to watch out for the giant malaria-infested mosquito (Mrs. Price), who infected a few unlucky students who then had to be carried off the fields.

Stricken with malaria, a settler is carried away.

The students also learned about "Stockade and Wall" settlements (Choma u'Migdal). During the British Mandate, the Chalutzim used a Turkish law to circumvent the British ban on building Jewish settlements by sneaking onto a portion of land and building a watchtower and fence overnight. Once the structures were in place, the British could not tear them down. 57 Moshavim and Kibbutzim in Israel were started this way. The middle schoolers built their own Choma u'Migdal from cardboard boxes and ropes. 

Building a watchtower

On Day Three the program wrapped up by fast forwarding to modern times and seeing what has become of these settlements. The students participated in developing city emblems to represent the past and present of their cities and performed skits about their settlements. They planted beautiful plants and seeds in planters which will beautify the school! They also learned about modern day Chalutzim, immigrants from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, America and Western Europe, to explore their challenges and contributions to Israeli society.

Of course the program featured the ultimate Tu B'Shvat
activity: planting.

Thus another multi-faceted lesson involved the kids in learning, hands-on, about agriculture and history, all the while promoting team building skills and beautifying the school. Of course, some fun was had as well.


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