It’s all-consuming! Israel is at war, surrounded by enemies on too many fronts; rockets coming in from Gaza, first-of-its-kind uprisings of Israeli-Arabs in mixed cities like Acco, Jaffa, Haifa and Lod, and perhaps most lethal of all is the disparaging battle being fought on social-media.
Thanks to modern technology, the latest attacks, stabbings, bombings… are now instantaneously seen on the screen in the palm of our hand. Many of us have family and friends living and studying in Israel or serving in the IDF. We spend our days monitoring the situation, searching for the most updated information on the current crisis. Though physically removed we are not psychologically shielded from the trauma of imagining what our loved ones are living through. Thus, the impact of the rockets is closer than the geographic distance would suggest.
So how can we guide our children and help them navigate this emotionally charged and confusing time?
Throughout our children’s lifetime, Israel has been embroiled in a series of wars and violent conflicts with their Arab neighbors. Now, as in the past, many untruths and propaganda against Israel are being circulated. Often with few facts but many followers, celebrities and social-media influencers are becoming a biased and prejudicial source of information with great impact, distorting the truth with their inaccurate message. Shockingly, this media frenzy has become a game changer for which we and our kids have been caught unprepared. Thus, we need to quickly help our kids sort out the information and gain a deeper understanding of the causes for this most recent spate of violence in our beloved homeland.
As a psychologist, I am keenly aware that when engaging in conflict resolution, the first step is to listen to everyone’s perspective, as there can be multiple root causes for any conflict. When teaching about Israel, we sometimes overlook the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian narrative; worrying that acknowledging their history and their aspirations for a homeland, will in some way diminish our loyalty and connection to Israel. It won’t.
Understanding the world view of the Israeli-Arab in Lod, or the Palestinian in Gaza, will not weaken our allegiance to Israel; it may in fact enhance our understanding of our neighbors, of current events, and of recent history.
As an educator, I can attest that children are capable of recognizing that the conflict exists not only because of disagreements about land, borders and religious claims, but also because of competing national aspirations.
We can help our children confront the lies on social media by doing the following:
- Share the facts in a simple and chronological fashion, dating back to before 1948.
- Teach kids to listen respectfully to the other side’s narrative.
- Express empathy for the pain and suffering of all involved.
It has been an exceedingly difficult year; first covid, then the Meron tragedy, followed by rockets raining down on Israel, and now a major slanderous social-media campaign against our beleaguered homeland. We are all feeling vulnerable and weary.
In the midst of all the pain and violence, if we can muster up empathy for the suffering on both sides of this conflict, we will be modeling a healthy response for our children and our children’s children to emulate, without fear of undermining our unyielding commitment and steadfast relationship to Israel.
When I was a young Mom, there was a belief that within one or two generations at the most, the conflict would be resolved, and my grandchildren would no longer be in harms way. Sadly, that has not come to pass. While we must of course stand firm with our brethren in Israel, if we want to protect future generations, we should help the youth on both sides understand each other ‘s narrative and reach out to each other in respectful dialogue. Hopefully, they will be the generation to begin to nudge their respective governments in the direction of a lasting peace.
Praying for a swift end to this latest conflict and for the well-being and safe return of all members of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Dr. Tani Foger