Flat Stanley is the beloved “flat” character from the 1964 children’s book of the same title, written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. Every teacher and parent of young children know the story of Stanley Lambchop, who gets “flattened” in his sleep when a big bulletin board falls on him. He survives and discovers the advantages of being “flat.” For one, he can visit friends by being mailed in envelopes.
On a recent trip to Florida, I saw a man on the beach, dressed in a white button down shirt and khaki pants—with a camera in one hand and Flat Stanley in the other! He had obviously promised his young son or daughter a photograph of Stanley at the Atlantic Ocean. And on a trip to Israel, a day care director in our tour group must have snapped 100 pictures of Stan—from Zichron Yaakov to The Sea of Galilee.
It seems other “Stanleys” have also visited the Holy Land. A tour guide in Israel writes of the day a Flat Stanley arrived in the mail from Los Angeles. He had recently guided the family on a bat mitzvah tour. Now, the younger sister was writing with a special request—to take Stanley with him on his tours of Israel. “At first I did not understand what I was supposed to do with this weird thing. It could easily be thought of as a joke, but after reading the “manual” I became quite enthusiastic… We fed him traditional Israeli salad, put him in a Succah we built in Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem.” Flat Stanley was even photographed with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat!
Apparently, Flat Stanley had had similar adventures all around the world. The Flat Stanley Project encompasses more than 6000 schools registered in 88 countries.
All of the Flat Stanley hype, coupled with a TV commercial a few years back for Travelocity–with a talking gnome-gave Rachel Kirschbaum, a Jewish Day school teacher in New York City, an idea—Chayim Yerushalayim!! According to Kirschbaum, the chair of the Tanach department at the prestigious Ramaz School in Manhattan, “Chayim Yerushalayim” has followed her from teaching positions in several New York area Jewish day schools. “He started with SAR 2nd graders, continued with Heschel 5th graders and after a brief hiatus, took up travel again with 8th graders (or their parents) at Ramaz.” Kirschbaum currently teaches 6,7 and 8th grades at Ramaz.
Chayim has been to Jerusalem many times. He has been to the Dead Sea and, Kirschbaum reports, “His skin should be soft and supple by now”—thanks to all of the Dead Sea mud smeared all over his body. He has been to the Tayelet in Tel Aviv, to Caesaria, and to Masada. “The kids love it. They think it is the cutest thing. I usually do it with younger students but even the 8th graders were ecstatic to see the pictures and so excited…it works every time!”
Next time you are in Israel, keep your eyes open for Flat Stanley or Chayim Yerushalayim. Both are great travelers and can be useful in teaching all ages about Israel! [full disclosure: Chayim recently accompanied me and I group I led on a trip to Israel! See photo below]