Belonging

What does it mean to belong? Belonging can entail many forms and circles. We can belong to a place, to a group or team, in our families. But belonging doesn’t remain static and constant. We may feel that we belong more or less at different times, and we may even want to belong more or less at different times. We may constantly seek a balance between our desire to belong and our desire to remain an individual, between looking inward and looking outward, between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out.

Many Jews feel, or seek, a sense of belonging in Israel. For those who come from places where Jews are a small minority, Israel can provide a sense of comfort and belonging, as Judaism is part of the mainstream. Yet those same people may feel like outsiders while in Israel because they do not speak the language or understand cultural references and social norms. For many, Israel can be simultaneously a homeland and a foreign country.

This collection explores the idea of “belonging” as it relates to Israel and education. In the song “Yoter,” we ask to what extent belonging is something we can actively strive for, and to what extent it occurs naturally or organically. In a video about the Abraham Accords, we seek to understand how Israel does or does not belong in the Middle East and in the international community, and what it means not only for us to belong in Israel, but for Israel to belong in the family of nations. In “The Things We Carry,” we see the challenge of belonging in a diverse society in which so many people seek a balance between fitting in and being true to ourselves.  Finally, in “Poems of Belonging,” we look at how two poets understand belonging to a place, and how intimacy and alienation can be closely linked.

As educators beginning to work with a new group, we seek to build community and create a feeling of belonging. Our role is to help group members navigate how to balance their need to belong and their need to express their individuality. Some will try too hard to “fit in,” and end up alienating themselves; others will realize that any feeling of belonging can be fleeting. Some learning occurs best in a safe environment when we feel we belong, yet much learning comes from the sometimes-painful and challenging experience of feeling as an outsider. Reflecting on this theme of belonging enables us to understand ourselves and others in an endless cycle of interaction and introspection.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
  • What does it mean to belong? Do we ever truly belong?
  • To what, to whom, and to where do you belong? When do you feel that you don’t belong?
  • How do you balance belonging to a group while maintaining your individuality?
  • What new perspectives and insights do you see through this exploration?
  • In what ways does this exploration connect you with Israel?

Take a look at our Israel Resource Cards for activities to help build community. Click here for an additional exploration of Belonging.

YOTER (MORE)

Written by the renowned lyricist Yehonatan Geffen and performed here by Avishai Rosen, the song “Yoter” (“More”) explores some of the words and sentiments that shape our sense of belonging. The plural voice seems to emphasize our deep desire to belong while also giving room in the chorus to celebrate our individual choices, actions, and responsibilities. This rerelease of the song has enjoyed recent popularity in Israeli schools.

The word yoter (יותר), which literally means “more,” shares the same root as the word levater (לוותר), which means “to let go.” The song’s lyrics mirror this tension by inviting us to consider actions and sentiments that can both encourage and hinder a sense of belonging: The more we focus on love, listening, and faith, the more we feel a common bond. When we linger on jealousy, hatred, and being alone, we remove ourselves from the collective. Letting go of these and other notions can clear the path for us to celebrate the relationships that enhance our sense of belonging. 

AS YOU LISTEN TO THE SONG, CONSIDER:
  • When listening to the song, what words resonate with you? What feelings do you get from the music?
  • When have you needed to let go of something in order to belong to either a group or a place?
  • When has belonging to a collective strengthened your sense of individual self?
MORE

Lyrics: Yehonatan Geffen
Composition: Yitzhak Klepter
Vocal: Avishai Rosen

We’ll learn to live with what we have
We won’t seek anything else
But we will continue to ask
One more word of prayer.
When will we be closer
so we will feel and let go?
We all want to be good
But there could have been more:

More love
More listening
More faith between people
More peace, more hope,
Less jealousy and baseless hatred.
More neshama (soul)
More Elohim (God)
More understanding between you and me,
More joy, more life,
Less alone, more with you.

We’ll learn to live with what we have
We won’t seek anything else
But we will continue to ask
One more word of prayer.
More joy. Mine, yours,
Many more warm words
Fewer lies, fewer tears,
Less to die, more to live

More love…

Translated by: Michal Peles-Almagor

יותר

מילים‭: ‬יהונתן‭ ‬גפן
לחן‭: ‬יצחק‭ ‬קלפטר
ביצוע‭: ‬אבישי‭ ‬רוזן

נלמד‭ ‬לחיות‭ ‬עם‭ ‬מה‭ ‬שיש‭,‬
לא‭ ‬נחפש‭ ‬דבר‭ ‬אחר‭,‬
אבל‭ ‬נמשיך‭ ‬ונבקש
מילת‭ ‬תפילה‭ ‬אחת‭ ‬יותר‭.‬
מתי‭ ‬נהיה‭ ‬יותר‭ ‬קרובים
עד‭ ‬שנרגיש‭ ‬ונוותר‭?‬
כולם‭ ‬רוצים‭ ‬להיות‭ ‬טובים‭,‬
אבל‭ ‬אפשר‭ ‬היה‭ ‬יותר‭:‬

יותר‭ ‬אהבה‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬הקשבה‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬אמונה‭ ‬בין‭ ‬אדם‭ ‬לאדם‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬שלום‭, ‬יותר‭ ‬תקווה‭,‬
פחות‭ ‬קנאה‭ ‬ושנאת‭ ‬חינם‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬נשמה‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬אלוהים‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬הבנה‭ ‬ביני‭ ‬לבינך‭,‬
יותר‭ ‬שמחה‭, ‬יותר‭ ‬חיים‭,‬
פחות‭ ‬לבד‭, ‬יותר‭ ‬איתך‭.‬

נלמד‭ ‬לחיות‭ ‬עם‭ ‬מה‭ ‬שיש‭,‬
לא‭ ‬נחפש‭ ‬דבר‭ ‬אחר‭,‬
אבל‭ ‬נמשיך‭ ‬ונבקש
מילת‭ ‬תפילה‭ ‬אחת‭ ‬יותר‭.‬
יותר‭ ‬שמחה‭, ‬שלי‭, ‬שלך‭,‬
הרבה‭ ‬יותר‭ ‬מילים‭ ‬חמות‭,‬
פחות‭ ‬שקרים‭, ‬פחות‭ ‬דמעות‭,‬
פחות‭ ‬למות‭, ‬יותר‭ ‬לחיות‭.‬

יותר‭ ‬אהבה‭…‬

EXPLORE BELONGING

Belonging Through Tradition

Belonging Through Partnership

Belonging Through Poetry