Israel is many things to many people. It’s the Biblical Promised Land, a home to many peoples, a US ally, a democracy, the Jewish homeland, a high-tech hub, a military power, a melting pot, a place with deep spirituality and equally deep conflict, a cultural center, a flashpoint, and so much more. First and foremost, Israel is home to nearly 10 million people, each of whom lives a life filled with unique and common elements, each of whom is a complex world unto themselves.

While some people tend to boil those complexities down to “The Conflict,” and others prefer to ignore that aspect of Israel’s reality altogether, the truth is that Israel is a living, breathing place filled with all the complexities of modern life anywhere—and then some!

By embracing these complexities, we open the door to enriched, nuanced, and meaningful engagement with Israel. By applying the same standards of critical thinking and shades of gray that play an increasingly central role in general education, Israel educators can prompt people to find relevant entry points to deep and fulfilling connections with the country and the many peoples who live there. With the guiding hand of passionate educators, learners of all ages can engage with Israel in a multi-faceted and layered way.

This collection invites you to explore just a few of the complexities that come together to create the rich tableau that is the modern state of Israel. In her poem “I Am the Mizrachit,” Adi Keissar offers scorching insights into the reality of many Israeli Jews who trace their roots to Middle Eastern countries. Through his Four Tribes speech, Israel’s former president, Reuven Rivlin, offers a new approach to considering Israeli identity, and the Hamsa Aleinu photography exhibit provides rich opportunities to delve into the lived experiences of many strands of Israeli society. In Strangeness, a ground-breaking exhibit by the artist Raida Adon, images of suitcases conjure up countless questions about Arab, Palestinian, Jewish, and Israeli identities. And, finally, by opening a door to two children’s books, we offer an entry point to what all Israelis have always known: that the country is filled with every kind of person imaginable, all destined to live together.

  • What is an example of something in your life that seems clear-cut but on closer examination turns out to be much more complex?
  • How can complex, even contradictory, views of a situation enrich your perceptions?
  • How can our relationships be influenced by exploring shades of gray?
  • What new perspectives and insights do you see through this exploration?
  • In what ways does this exploration connect you with Israel?


Adi Keissar’s poetry explores the place of Jewish Mizrahi ethnicity in Israeli narratives and Jewish identities. Her poem “I am a Mizrahi Woman,” published in the book Black on Black (2014), underscores the exclusion of Mizrahi culture and voices within Israeli society, Keissar’s poem reclaims her Mizrahi tradition while placing it at the center of Israeli culture and offering her personal critique of traditional Ashkenazi dominance. By bringing together Zohar Argov, the prominent Yemenite-Israeli singer, and the French philosopher Albert Camus, the poet reconfigures the power dynamics between popular and intellectual, center and marginality. Not letting go of her past, Keissar situates Mizrahi identity at the heart of Israeli social discourse, bringing her heritage closer to contemporary Israeli culture.

Check out Adi Keissar reciting, “Ani Hamizrachit.”

  • What kinds of relationships between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi traditions does this poem illustrate?
  • How would you describe your impression of the image of a Mizrahi woman in Keissar’s poems? What are the traditions she feels close to and from which traditions does she distance herself?
  • What kind of competing narratives do you see in your own story?

Adi Keissar

I am the Mizrachit*
You do not know
I am the Mizrahi woman
You do not mention
Who knows how to recite
all the songs
by Zohar Argov**
and reads Albert Camus
and Bulgakov
Stirs it together slowly slowly
on a small flame
meat and milk
black and white
the fumes poison
the sky blue and white

What will you do to me?

I breathe in Hebrew
shop in English
love in Arabic
kapparah ‘al ha-surac
whine in Mizrahi dialect
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
Because on TV there is nothing but commercials
of all kinds of blondes
maybe that’s why at school they called me
kushit*** during recess
I am in the middle
neither here nor there
if I needed to choose
I would choose

Translated by Michal Peles-Almagor

אני המזרחית

עדי‭ ‬קיסר

אֲנִי‭ ‬הַמִּזְרָחִית
שֶׁאַתֶּם‭ ‬לֹא‭ ‬מַכִּירִים
אֲנִי‭ ‬הַמִּזְרָחִית
שֶׁאַתֶּם‭ ‬לֹא‭ ‬מַזְכִּירִים
שֶׁיּוֹדַעַת‭ ‬לְדַקְלֵם
אֶת‭ ‬כָּל‭ ‬הַשִּׁירִים
שֶׁל‭ ‬זֹהַר‭ ‬אַרְגּוֹב
וְקוֹרֵאת‭ ‬אַלְבֶּר‭ ‬קָאמִי
מְעַרְבֶּבֶת‭ ‬הַכֹּל‭ ‬לְאַט‭ ‬לְאַט
עַל‭ ‬אֵשׁ‭ ‬קְטַנָּה
חָלָב‭ ‬וּבָשָׂר
שָׁחֹר‭ ‬וְלָבָן
הָאֵדִים‭ ‬מַרְעִילִים
אֶת‭ ‬הַשָּׁמַיִם‭ ‬כָּחֹל‭ ‬לָבָן

מָה‭ ‬תַּעֲשׂוּ‭ ‬לִי‭?‬

אֲנִי‭ ‬נוֹשֶׁמֶת‭ ‬בְּעִבְרִית
קוֹנָה‭ ‬בְּאַנְגְּלִית
אוֹהֶבֶת‭ ‬בַּעֲרָבִית
כַּפָּרָה‭ ‬עַל‭ ‬הַסּוּרַכּ
מִתְבַּכְיֶנֶת‭ ‬בְּמִזְרָחִית
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
כִּי‭ ‬בַּטֶלֶוִיזְיָה‭ ‬יֵשׁ‭ ‬רַק‭ ‬פִּרְסוֹמוֹת
שֶׁל‭ ‬כָּל‭ ‬מִינֵי‭ ‬בְּלוֹנְדִּינִיּוֹת
אוּלַי‭ ‬בִּגְלַל‭ ‬זֶה‭ ‬קָרְאוּ‭ ‬לִי‭ ‬בַּבֵּית‭ ‬סֵפֶר
כּוּשִׁית‭ ‬בַּהַפְסָקוֹת
אֲנִי‭ ‬בָּאֶמְצַע
לֹא‭ ‬לְכָאן‭ ‬וְלֹא‭ ‬לְכָאן
אִם‭ ‬הָיִיתִי‭ ‬צְרִיכָה‭ ‬לִבְחֹר
הָיִיתִי‭ ‬בּוֹחֶרֶת
אַפְרוֹ‭ ‬תֵּימָן‭.

*Mizrachi: Jews from Arab or Muslim countries primarily in the Middle East and North Africa.
**Zohar Argov: Despite his dark history that includes being a convicted rapist and drug addict, Argov continues to be revered by many Israelis as the first—and most prominent—face of Mizrahi music.
***Kushit: a Biblical term to describe dark-skinned people. In early Modern Hebrew it was not a derogatory term but more recently it has come to be regarded as an offensive term that is used as a slur against people with black or dark skin.

Although Adi Keissar began writing only when she 32 years old, she quickly emerged as a leading voice in what is termed “Mizrahi” poetry (the word Mizrahi is often used to refer to Israelis who came to Israel from Arab or Muslim countries). Born in Jerusalem in 1980, Keissar’s mother came to Israel from Yemen in the 1950s, while her father’s family arrived from Yemen in the late 19th century. She began to embrace her Mizrahi identity during her compulsory IDF service, and—after a career in journalism—embarked on a quest to make poetry accessible to everyone. She co-founded the “Ars Poetica” movement, organized open poetry reading events, and in 2017 Israel’s Ministry of Education included her work in its approved literature curriculum.


Complexities Through Visual Art

Complexities Through Photography

Complexities Through Literature

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