Last night, my oldest son participated in his first Bnei Akiva “Chodesh Irgun.” This event brought together youth from all over our home city of Modi’in, as it did in cities all across Israel, and celebrated their commitment to Israel, the Jewish people and to Hashem. The beautiful evening of celebration included presentations by the kids, dancing, singing, and a sense of genuine pride for Israel and Jews everywhere. The month leading up to this fantastic event was difficult for both the kids and the parents. I knew though instantly, that the late nights of rehearsals, art projects, and the several pans of schnitzel for the hungry youth were worth it as Bnei Akiva stands for all of the reasons why we made Aliyah.
As I was watching each group perform, I could not help but to think about our Arab neighbors who also teach about national pride and the connection to God. The difference of course, as we all know is that while our children are being instilled with a message of “Ahavat Yisrael/Love of Israel,” their children are being taught messages of hate and destruction. As an educator and a parent, I can share numerous stories about how children are so impressionable. It does not take much to promote a new idea or sense of importance. My son, who is 10 years old took the month long preparations for last night’s event more seriously than I have ever seen him take anything else. As he learned the dance steps, the hand motions, and the words to all the songs, it became evident that this was not just about the performance, but something more. This is why we are here and raising our children in Israel. The sense of pride and unity is unique. After every part of last night’s show, they concluded with the phrase “Hashem Imachem/ God is with You.” When we say this, it is meant as a joyous statement to promote unity and to remind us of our connection with Hashem. It is so sad that our Arab neighbors cannot learn from our examples.
Imagine what life would be like if instead of teaching their children to hate and to kill, that the Palestinians were promoting peace and partnerships. This may sound far-fetched, but the truth is that the infrastructure already exists for them to do so. The Palestinian youth organizations are among the strongest youth programs in the world. Youth events in Ramallah are said to attract hundreds of kids just looking for a place to belong and for a cause to embrace. Now, imagine if all of those children were taught that violence is not the answer and that the Jewish people are here to stay. Imagine the possibilities….
Now, back to reality. Sadly, this is not the way things work. As nice as it is to dream about this “perfect world,” we all know that the chances of it happening are slim to none. Over the past month, I have seen my son and his friends covered in paint and dancing to beats that I didn’t know existed, all for Ahavat Yisrael. As parents, we could not ask for anything better.
Sadly, as this wonderful and proud moment was taking place, we were also learning the identity of the latest victims of terror. After I returned home from last night’s program, I signed in on-line to teach my Jewish history course, as I do every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. One of my students asked, what could make a person do something like this to an innocent human being? I have been asked this question numerous times and I still do not have a good answer. We talked about what makes someone commit such horrific acts and how we can prevent them, but even with a lot of theories, there are still no good answers. After class was over I started thinking about how this could have easily been one of my students. I started thinking about my student’s question from earlier, and began asking myself how someone could do something like this to another person? It just did not seem real.
Then, suddenly, I was back in reality. I was back in our world with the problems that we face every day, simply because we are Jewish. I am thankful that my children have organizations like Bnei Akiva to promote true national pride and that my children are taught to love other human beings. They are not being brought up learning to hate. I asked myself again, “what if things were different?”
Let us hope and pray that one day we can live in a world where national pride means the same thing for all of us.