The current climate for the Jewish people around the world, 6 months on from the atrocities committed on October 7th by Hamas, has left us with a sense of confusion, concern and isolation. Who could have possibly anticipated that the State of Israel could be caught off guard so drastically on that fateful Simchat Torah? And whilst we initially received the sympathy and support of many countries and individuals, their allegiance and affinity appear to be dwindling. Jews everywhere were forced to consider questions that had not previously bothered them to the same extent; How could this happen? What is the historical context which has led to these events? What does it mean for the future of the Middle East, the State of Israel and the Jewish people?

As a school, we have endeavoured to wrestle with these questions every day since the war began. The daily Kenes Tefillah, where we bring the entire secondary school together to daven for the IDF, the hostages and everyone in Israel, helps ensure that we do not forget about the war amongst our everyday activities. We have also been able to use this space as an opportunity to hear from people on the ground, as alumni and former shlichim have sent in videos to help us get an understanding of what it is like to be in Israel at the moment. We provide regular updates about the situation at every assembly, and have been privileged to hear from various heroes of the war who have visited Australia to share their stories. Our classes every day are also dedicated in honour of those in need of extra merit in this time.

Reflecting on all of this, the Yavneh Foundation board recognised the need to engage the wider Yavneh community in these topics. A three-part hasbara (Israel Advocacy) series was designed, with two key aims; to provide Yavneh families with a ‘window into the classroom’ and gain insight into the Israel education that our students receive, and to provide listeners with fundamental knowledge to be able to understand the history of the conflict and defend Israel.

I delivered the first session, focussing on the origins of the conflict and key moments within it before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, whilst drawing parallels to current themes in the war. The next session was given by College Principal Shula Lazar, unpacking the central events from the 6 Day War in 1967 until the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, and identifying the impact that these years had on Israel’s political landscape. Rav Noam Sendor presented the final session, honing in on October 7th and what the next chapter may look like for Israel and the Jewish people, helping listeners make sense of current trends in global antisemitism and providing hope for a better future.

The Jewish people have a renewed level of responsibility to know our history and be able to defend ourselves on social media, university campuses and wherever else we may be challenged. Thank you to Tanya Shaltiel, Dion Epstein, Karen Franks and the Yavneh Foundation for facilitating this series and may we see the return of our hostages and a successful end to the war immediately.

Noah Epstein, Head of Jewish Life and Learning