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How do we teach our children?

I am struggling. Israel is on my mind day and night, every day and every night. I can’t sleep. I’m worried about the future and I’m worried about our next generation. As a teacher in our Greater Metrowest community who has embarked on a personal journey to enhance Jewish education opportunities for all ages and stages, I see our next generation being influenced by voices that do not represent the reality of Israel or the Jewish people. I’m struggling to focus my efforts on engaging our younger Jews with the complicated facts of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. My friends are reaching out to me asking how to talk to their children who are espousing hate against Israel in the name of justice for the Palestinians.

I’m struggling to understand how so many young people do not recognize that murdering innocent Jews has no rational excuse. Terror, torture and murder of civilians of all ages from as young as a baby pulled from the belly of a pregnant mother to grandparents, some of whom were Holocaust survivors, is never an acceptable solution.

As a mother, I feel that the Jewish people are in a dangerous situation in which we are facing the most despicable evil threatening our lives. The heinous attacks on Jews around the world this weekend, is an example of what is happening right now.  It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the facts of systemic antisemitism. Watching students at Tulane being attacked for protecting the Israeli flag from being burned, learning that Jewish students at Cornell are in a lockdown because of threats to their lives on campus are just two of the many events that have occurred this week threatening Jews in America.

Today, in 2023, the Jewish people are faced with another Amalek, another Haman, another Hitler. We must recognize that antisemitism continues to infect the minds of people intent on erasing the Jewish people and the Land of Israel from existence. If watching the Russian mob at the airport trying to kill any Jews or Israelis landing in Dagestan airport doesn’t indicate the vicious hate against Jews, I just don’t know what does.

We need to educate our children to teach them that this hatred is not new and is not rational. We need to explain to our children that it doesn’t matter how liberal or progressive you are, if you were in the same situation as those young people at the nature/peace party, you would be murdered in cold blood.

None of the terrorists asked their victims if they believed in peace. None of the terrorists asked their victims if they wanted to “Free Gaza, or “Free Palestine.” Those terrorists killed those young Jewish people in cold blood simply because they were Jewish. In fact, those terrorists killed Arabs, as well. They didn’t care when an Israeli Arab called out for mercy in Arabic. The terrorists just killed. They killed for spite. They killed for fun.

Our children need to learn our history. What is happening right now in Israel is terribly and tragically another chapter in our history of survival. However, it’s the first time in Israel’s history that a massacre of this scale occurred on our own land in modern times. We were attacked in the land where we were supposed to be safe. We were attacked in the land where we are Indigenous and native. We were attacked in the land which G-d promised to Abraham in the Torah, the land which G-d promised Moses in the desert, the land which Jews have always returned to every time we were exiled and dispersed throughout the Diaspora.

Our children need to learn that we have always held out our hands in peace to our Arab neighbors and that we have offered peace multiple times in the course of our modern history. The Israeli Declaration of Independence was written with the goal of seeking peace with our Arab neighbors:

“In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and the representation in all its bodies and institutions, provisional or permanent.

We offer peace and amity to all the neighboring states and their peoples and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.”

These paragraphs do not state any goal of ethnic cleansing. These paragraphs do not state any goal of genocide against the Arab people. These paragraphs demonstrate the Jewish people striving for peace and a desire to live together amicably.

The Hamas charter is the opposite. It specifically states its intended goal to kill Jews.

In Article 7:

“The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews. When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say, “O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…”

There are multiple articles in their charter, and they are all intent on erasing Israel and the Jewish people not only from the Land of Israel, but from the world. Our children need to understand the depth of hate directed against the Jews.

We should, of course, feel empathy for the innocent people living in Gaza. Their leaders have used them as pawns in their Jihad against Israel. Their leaders have kept them living in poverty to show the world how terrible Israel is to those living in Gaza. We have learned this week, that Hamas is hoarding food and fuel to supply themselves for months. The people of Gaza had to break into warehouses to steal food for themselves.

As we recoil from the disgusting and perverse murder and torture of our people, there can be no alternative but to condemn and demand justice. Jewish blood is as red as any other blood. Jewish lives are as valuable as any other lives. When I called my friend in Israel to check and see if she was all right, she told me her husband had been shot by terrorists on his way to work. A police officer found him and started driving him to the hospital and he was shot too. Finally, a security officer from her kibbutz found him and brought him to the hospital.

My friend was going through this trauma while she was nine months pregnant and she started going into labor. She also had to be brought to the hospital. She just told me she never could imagine the hate that she heard from the terrorists in her yard. How could it happen? She felt like she was in the Holocaust.

Our children need to understand that if this cancer, today exemplified by Hamas, but actually spreading into the mainstream of society is allowed to continue to grow, we will not be safe anywhere. American Jews will not be safe. In fact, I don’t believe we are safe anymore. You just need to watch the news and see the masses of pro-Palestinian protests that are demanding death to the Jews every single day.

We, the adults, the educators, the mothers, the Jewish leaders need to share our truth. Personally, as a National Board Member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, I am constantly standing up for the Jewish people. I am advocating for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I know we can all live together because Hadassah’s two hospitals in Jerusalem are examples of shared society. All people are treated regardless of religion, race or gender. All people are our doctors, nurses, clowns, orderlies. Our hospitals are known for their shared society and care for all.

We, the adults, the educators, the Jewish leaders must show our next generation what was, what is and what we pray must be. It is our responsibility to engage our young people in the hard questions. But above all, they must know that in order to achieve peace for Jews and Arabs, senseless murder and baseless hatred must be condemned without reservation.

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder is a proud Jew and lifelong Zionist. Stephanie studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for her junior year abroad and is currently pursuing her masters in Jewish Education at the Hebrew University Melton School of Education. In her volunteer hours, she is on the National Board of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America where she currently serves as Chair of the Speakers Bureau and team member of the Education and Advocacy division. Stephanie teaches teens and adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and her synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel. All of her blogs are her own personal opinions and do not represent the organizations with which she is affiliated.
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