There was a small glimmer of hope in the news yesterday as The Times of Israel reported poll results showing that the majority of West Bank Palestinians oppose the current “stabbing” uprising.
With that in mind, I respectfully implore Palestinian educators and parents who feel this way, to find your voices and deliver these messages denouncing violence and terror to your students and children in clear and simple terms, if you have not done so to date.
Your voice matters. It really does.
I know it is perhaps unfair of me to write these lines from the safety of my N.Y. suburban home, But for most of my adult life, I have publicly spoken out, at times at great personal risk, to support victims of abuse and to denounce the inculcation of hatred in our children and the violence that is its inevitable by-product.
In the summer of 2009, when Jerusalem was rocked by violent protests led by people who dress like I do, I wrote Hate Has No Off Button, denouncing hate mongers in my community. During that summer, I did media interviews denouncing the violence and organized a public campaign asking members of my community to email media outlets and sign a petition distancing ourselves from those who preach hatred and/or commit violence.
Here are excerpts from the Hate Has No Off Button essay:
“I keep reading that the violence is being conducted by “out-of-control teens.” I beg to differ. The violence is a direct and inevitable result of kids merely taking the hateful rhetoric of the adults around them to the next step.”
“Adolescents see things in black and white and believe-it-or-not actually do listen to what adults around them are saying. They may not follow our wishes, but they do hear our overt and covert messages.”
“Once children are taught to rebel against the infrastructure of society and that violence is acceptable or even commendable, all bets are off.”
“Violence and hatred corrupt one’s soul. It is that simple. Things of this nature may start off with a noble goal, but they never, ever, end that way.”
If these lines ring true in today’s environment, it is because its message is universal and eternal.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of spending ten days at The Principals’ Center of Harvard Graduate School of Education along with 150 school heads from around the world. The AVI CHAI Foundation, which sponsored the participation of ten Jewish school heads, graciously arranged to have catered, kosher meals prepared for us each evening.
When I noticed that a few Muslim colleagues who did not have access to Halal food were not eating dinner, I invited them to our table where we shared our meals with them.
It turned out that two of the participants were Palestinian Arabs, and we became fast friends. The three of us had wonderful heart-to-heart talks during the course of the program; one lasting long after dinner had ended.
The last evening of the program, we finally acknowledged the elephant in the room; the state of friction that exists between our people. We kept expressing to each other the dream that perhaps one day, a group of educators on both sides could work together to provide a better future for our children and grandchildren.
When we parted company, though, we shook hands and embraced, knowing that we would never see each other again.
Here’s to hoping against hope that you read these lines, my friends, and perhaps revisit our dreams.