How To Celebrate Jerusalem Day Abroad

Today, as I walk the streets of Jerusalem, I feel the miracles and the magic around me. I hear the stones whispering their history. I see the colors and the vibrancy of the people. I viscerally sense the complexity which I cannot adequately articulate. I am witness to the fruits of past bravery, and I palpably feel the victory in calling Jerusalem my home.

As Jerusalem prepares to celebrate 50 years of freedom, I realize that I am exceptionally privileged to be amongst those who celebrate in Jerusalem. I am blessed to live in the Holy Land –- to be a part of our people’s history, and of shaping the future we collectively dream of. I also realize how many people have not yet had the chance to experience Jerusalem’s profound emotional and spiritual richness for themselves.

I wonder how people around the globe -– children especially –- can connect to Yom Yerushalayim, to Jerusalem, the beating heart of the Jewish world, without having felt its potency. How do leaders in schools and community organizations worldwide educate about Jerusalem? How do they inspire love for our beloved city, a place beyond time that holds the key to our past, embodies the vibrancy of our present, carries the secrets of our future?

Short of bringing millions of Jewish children from around the world to experience Jerusalem, I wonder how we could at least bring a taste of Jerusalem to Jews around the world?

As an educator, I am aware that, until recently, educators had highly limited resources to bring Jerusalem alive in the minds of others. But today, with the advances in educational technologies, it has become a real and viable option to simulate immersive physical presence in a real or imagined environment anywhere in the world. Abstract ideas which years ago seemed the stuff of science fiction are now mature technologies with widespread adoption. In our brave new world, tools such as virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive gaming and 3D video, among others, enable anyone anywhere to explore Jerusalem’s past, present and future.

Nothing can ever be as powerful as physically experiencing Jerusalem. No digital experience can ever provide the multisensory live experience. But a high-quality digital experience can certainly be the next-best thing, evoking real emotions, and delivering meaningful educational impact.

So how do we deliver this powerful digital experience of Jerusalem?

For Educational technology (EdTech) solutions to be effective, there are four major elements to consider: Content, Access, Distribution, and Implementation.

Content answers the question, what do we want people to learn? For example, what aspects of Jerusalem’s history, culture, architecture and values do we want to impart?

Access answers the question, how do we make the content available? How best do we utilize major digital platforms such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Distribution answers the question, how will the content be consumed? How do we leverage the hardware devices manufactured by the likes of Oculus, Samsung, Sony, HTC and Google in reaching an optimal number of people?

Implementation answers the question, how do we make sure that it works? Any successful educational initiative requires quality assurance, channel partnerships, stakeholder engagement, teacher training, support, maintenance and project and program management.

There are, of course, many different contexts in which to implement these EdTech solutions, from parent-child learning at home, and day schools, supplementary schools and summer camps, to college, post-college and lifelong learning.

Recently, we hosted a number of guests from around the world who came to Israel for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. Together, as we explored Jerusalem, I couldn’t stop wondering how could I bottle this experience and share it with every Jewish child around the world.

Many of the sites already have 3D virtual reality experiences available. At places such as the Western Wall, City of David, Hebrew Music Museum, Ammunition Hill, visitors are able to explore Jerusalem through different eras, and learn the historical significance of the ground upon which they are standing. Why not approach these museums, historical sites and other hotspots, gather this content, package it in a meaningful way and make it available to anyone wanting a taste of Jerusalem?

Such an undertaking is, in fact, eminently feasible. Jotting down a back-of-the envelope project plan I envisaged a handful of options. Firstly, the content that already exists would need to be identified and agreements reached for accessing it. Secondly the technology back-end would need to be figured out, and appropriate hardware selected. We would need to find a strong distribution channel to get the experience to families and schools worldwide. Finally, and most challengingly, we would need to find the best way to implement. Some of the ideas I came up with included a mobile technology lab, a roving exhibit for community spaces, and an app for personal devices.

To show how close such an opportunity is to reality I’ve included my own list of some of the best content currently available:

• Western Wall Heritage Foundation: “Look into the past” virtual reality experience and an interactive “Journey to Jerusalem” (experiencing the Jewish nation’s return home from the Diaspora following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE)

• City of David: a riveting 3D movie about the history of Ancient Jerusalem and the City of David.

• Tower of David

• I Am Jerusalem movie

Davidson Centre

• Jerusalem’s Hebrew Music Museum

• Ammunition Hill

As a mother and a parent of young children, my deep desire is that the privilege my children enjoy of imbibing Jerusalem in all its multi-faceted beauty and with all its complexity and contradictions is made available, as best as it can be, to children around the world.

The ingredients to make this a reality already exist –- all that remains is to bring them together. As we celebrate the 50th Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), I call upon those willing to do so to help us bring a virtual taste of Jerusalem to children around the world for the 51st celebration and to imbue a sense of love, deeper understanding and ownership of Jerusalem in the hearts of our next generation.

This story "How To Celebrate Jerusalem Day Abroad" was written by Nicky Newfield.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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