About Facing the Nakba

Facing the Nakba offers educational resources to U.S. Jews and a general U.S. audience about the history of the Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) and its implications in Palestine/Israel today. The Nakba refers to the forced displacement of Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment, and that continues to this day.

This spring JVP will join with Palestinians and others in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Arabic for “the catastrophe”)—the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948. As part of our commitment to grappling with that history and its contemporary reverberations, we are proud to make available our seven-part curriculum, Facing the Nakba. We encourage you to use it, including as you plan your Nakba commemorations.

A guide for group workshops as well as a rich archive of resources accessible to individuals, Facing the Nakba is a flexible, multimedia curriculum that can help fill in the information that is often elided in accounts ofIsrael’s creation, strengthening our understanding of history (especially how the injustices Palestinians face began long before the 1967 occupation) and galvanizing our organizing today.

The Facing the Nakba website offers an in-depth guide for those who wish to facilitate group study as well as recommended tracks—for groups in synagogues or on college campuses, among organizers or high school students. We want the curriculum to work for you. The FTN library contains scores of materials — historical analyses, personal testimonies, NGO and governmental documents, maps, photos, and other materials.

Facing the Nakba, developed by a team of JVP members, draws from the pioneering work of the Israeli organization Zochrot (“Remembering” in Hebrew), which published a study guide in 2008 called “How do you say Nakba in Hebrew?” to promote acknowledgment and accountability within Israel for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba. Facingthe Nakba also maintains close partnerships with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and with the Participatory Action Research Center (PARCEO) to further develop our materials and broaden our reach.

The journal Radical Teacher featured Facing the Nakba in its recent issue on public pedagogies. We hope you will be part of the public that uses and expands this essential tool of our activism.

Facing the Nakba draws from the pioneering work of the Israeli organization Zochrot (“Remembering” in Hebrew), which published a study guide in 2008 called “How do you say Nakba in Hebrew?” to promote acknowledgment and accountability within Israel for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba. Facing the Nakba also maintains close partnerships with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and the Participatory Action Research Center (PARCEO) to further develop our materials and broaden our reach.

We began creating this curriculum for U.S. audiences in 2010 as an independent project, and became part of JVP in the summer of 2016. In the U.S., while most people learn about Israel as a “safe haven” for Jews, we seldom hear about the Palestinian experience of dispossession and expulsion in and prior to 1948. When U.S. Jews do talk about Palestine, the conversation often focuses on the post-1967 occupation, without acknowledging the occupation that began with the founding of the state of Israel.

As educators and activists, we have seen how acknowledgment of the Nakba can deepen discussions of the history of Palestine, Israel, and the occupation. We have seen how silence about the Nakba in U.S. Jewish communities and institutions has enabled a massive ignoring of history and sidelining of Palestinian voices.

As journalist Gideon Levy wrote in Ha’aretz: “Peace is not going to be prevented because the Palestinians are insisting on the right of return. It will be prevented mainly because Israel is not prepared to internalize the historical starting point: A people without a country came to a country with a people, and that people experienced a terrible tragedy that continues to this day.”

Here are some of the possible ways (and there are more!) that JVP chapters, councils, and members can make use of the Facing the Nakba resources:

  1. Host a monthly series to do the entire curriculum
  2. Do a one-time event using select exercises
  3. Select a few readings from our bibliography and have a discussion as part of your chapter meeting
  4. Plan an event around Nakba Day in May using our materials
  5. If you are in the Midwest: host Lubnah Shomali from our partner organization BADIL when she tours the Midwest post-NMM!

The curriculum and all supplementary materials are designed to strengthen and deepen our thinking and organizing for justice – we hope you make great use of them!

Coordinating CommitteeFacing Nakba Logo_color
Nava Etshalom
Julia Kessler
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
Donna Nevel
Rabbi Alissa Wise


JULIA KESSLER currently works at the International Refugee Assistance Project on the direct legal services team. Julia was previously a Program Coordinator with Facing the Nakba, and an International Advocacy Officer with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in Ramallah, Palestine. She is a graduate of New York University’s Master’s program in Global Affairs, specializing in human rights and international law.

MARILYN KLEINBERG NEIMARK was a founder (with Donna Nevel) and longtime board member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and has been active in the Palestine/Israel peace movement since her involvement with the International Jewish Peace Union in the 1980s. For 18 years she co-hosted Beyond the Pale on WBAI Radio in New York. She is a Professor Emerita at Baruch College-The City University of New York.

DONNA NEVEL, a community psychologist, educator, and co-coordinator of PARCEO , has been a long-time organizer for justice in Palestine; against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism; and for justice in public education. She is a founding member of Jews Say No! and the Network Against Islamophobia, a project of Jewish Voice for Peace, and a co-founder, with Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark, of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

RABBI ALISSA WISE is a Deputy Director at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Before joining JVP, she was the Education Director at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in NYC, a director of a Reconstructionist Hebrew school in Princeton, NJ, and spent time in the West Bank volunteering with the International Women’s Peace Service.


  1. It is the responsibility of U.S. Jews to know the history of the Nakba and to make that history visible in our communities.
  3. We know from the history of social change that organizing for justice and equality, when powered by directly affected communities, can move mountains, even though we might not be able to imagine the possibilities beforehand.