Home Educational Resources Pedagogic Materials

Please donate to the GZA!


The Unnatural Jew: Exploring Our Relationship to Lands in Diaspora and Israel

By Noam Dolgin, with help from many


This activity explores the connections between land, time and responsibility, and looks at the Jewish historical and religious connection to Zion and the lands we on which we live today.

Age: 12 and up

Time: 30 minutes and up depending on how much of this highly flexible program you choose to lead.





1) Define term: ‘Eco’

a. How is used, what words begin with it?

b. What does ‘eco’ mean? Latin for Home

2) What is home? What makes somewhere home?

a. What land do we call home? What are the characteristics that make it home?

3) Ask students to draw a map of their home land, with a focus on the geography.

4) In what ways is it accurate? Why or why not?

What if we drew roads or buildings instead? Would our drawing be more accurate?

5) Show 2 representations of hall peninsula? What can we learn about the Inuit man from his drawing?

a. Where does he live? Profession? How long has he/ his family lived in this location?

b. What does this tell us about this person’s connection to that piece of land? What are the benefits?

c. What effect does his people long term relationship with the area play?

6) Read The Unnatural Jew. Make sure that everyone understands what Steven S. Schwartzchild is trying to say.

a. Do you agree with Schwartzchild? Why?

b. If we are a people without a land, have we developed an earthly understanding and appreciation? Land ethic? environmental ethic?

7) Draw a map of Israel (Zion), with a focus on the geography. Is this map more or less accurate than the original? Why?

8) How does the Jewish religious connection to the land of Zion affect our relationship with that land and all land?

9) How does Zionism as an ideology address our connection with land, and the environmental dilemmas we face.

10) How can we develop a similar land and environmental ethic as Diaspora Jews.

Program Adaptations:

This is very adaptable program, depending on time, age, or area of interest, this program easily molded to fit your needs. Below are a few adaptation suggestions. If you write any of your own please send a copy to info [at] greenzionism [dot] org

A) To Shorten remove step 3, 5 or 7. Though the combination of approaches and activities enhances the exploration. The program can be to long for certain situations and can stand with only 1 or 2 of these components.

B) Step 3. Draw an assigned location and compare to actual map. Allows for a true analysis of the accuracy of our drawings. Puts a higher degree of focus on the part of the participants.

C) Begin at step 3. Introduce concept of ‘eco=home’ at the end as part of an environmental sikkum (conclusion)

D) Use readings on Jewish connections to the land of Zion, and the Zionist attitudes towards the land, to further develop steps 8 and 9.


Reading: The Unnatural Jew

by Steven S. Schwartzschild

In my philosophy department the graduate students organize an annual picnic. For some time past quasi-formal invitations have explicitly excluded me on the grounds that I am known to be at odds with nature. So I am. My dislike for nature goes deep: landscapes strike me as opponents, which, as the bible commands, I am to fill and conquer (Gen 1:28.) I really don’t like the world, and I think it’s foolish to tell me that I had better. One explanation of my attitude is historical. My parent’s family lived in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, where I was born, since before 1500. We have been urban for well over half a millennium.

Here I want to analyze whether it is only an idiosyncratic or mainly historical attitude, or whether more important, even philosophical, factors are significantly involved. Might it be that Judaism and nature are at odds? Richard Popkin once asked this Zen problem of me: Who was the last famous Jewish mountain climber? Indeed, most Jews in remembered history are unnatural persons.

In summary: (for younger audiences)

Steven S. Schwartzchild, a teacher of philosophy, in his paper The Unnatural Jew noted that his students believed that he is at odds with nature. And, he said, they are right. Steven deeply dislikes nature in all its forms; he does not like mountain ranges or old forests; he does not like tundra or sandy deserts. In fact any landscape that is unsettled frustrates Schwartzchild. He wants to conquer all land. In fact, he feels that as a Jew, he is obligated by the Torah to settle and tame the land. He, like many Jews, grew up in a city. His parents, like many Jews, also grew up in a city. His grandparents and even their grandparents grew up in a city. Jews have lived in cities for hundreds of years. Schwarzchild believes that Jewish people are not connected to the earth.

Therefore, he asks himself: is Judaism and nature at odds? Schwarzchild believes the answer is yes. He often asks the question, who was the last famous Jewish mountain climber? The answer, Steven says, is that all Jews in remembered history are unnatural persons.


Israeli Nature Poll

What is your favorite natural area of Israel?


"The quality of urban air compared to the air in the deserts and the forests is like thick and turbulent water compared to pure and light water."

- Rambam

Did You Know?

Lions, cheetahs, Anatolian leopards and brown bears were indigenous to the land of Israel but from medieval times into the 1980s they were hunted to local extinction.

Mideast Green News

Aytzim (Green Zionist Alliance, Inc.) is classified by the IRS as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3).

Aytzim.org is a carbon-neutral website hosted by DreamHost and is best viewed in Firefox. Please donate to Aytzim!

Aytzim™, Ecological Judaism™, Jewcology™, Jews of the Earth™, Shomrei Breishit™, Rabbis and Cantos for the Earth™, Green Zionist Alliance™, The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel™, Green Zionism™, Green Israel™ and Green Israel Summit™ are trademarks of Aytzim.

Copyright © 2020 Aytzim and its respective contributors. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission. No quotes may be used in any media without attribution to Aytzim. The opinions expressed and those of the authors do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Aytzim, its staff or lay leaders.



Some Aytzim educational resources are made possible
in part due to support from Mercaz/Masorti Olami and Hazon.