Shut the Schools Now!

Our children’s future is at stake. Their welfare hangs in the balance.  Each day that passes, the damage increases.  It’s time to act:  From kindergartens to high schools, the education system must be shut down.

The danger is real – and it’s not Omicron.  The government’s off-the-rails, retrograde policies are destroying the psychological, mental, intellectual, emotional, and social health of an entire generation of Israeli kids – with attendant effects on their physical health.  All this ostensibly to combat a virus which is impossible to eliminate, has become endemic, and which never posed a threat to them in the first place.

School should be a safe space, a supportive framework marked by predictable routines and comfortable interactions.  Instead, it has become a vortex of anxiety.  Due to the endless tests and isolations, there are not enough teachers, not enough substitutes, and rows of empty desks where students used to sit.  The atmosphere is thick with tension.  Kids are hectored about masks – don’t let them drop for a second (as if that saves anyone from bidud) and warned to avoid the very interactions that give their lives meaning.

With our family drowning in stress from the never-ending WhatsApp messages announcing teachers (all vaccinated) and students (mostly vaccinated) testing positive and throwing the second-tier members of the class yet again into the abyss, my husband and I have made the difficult decision not to send our children to school until the situation changes.

Some days there is Zoom, some days there is not, some days there is supposed to be Zoom but the lessons never materialize on the screen.  The situation is far from ideal and very challenging logistically.  But our priority is to protect our children’s mental health – especially when the system is failing them along with hundreds of thousands of their peers.

That the government has yet to own up to this catastrophe and end it once and for all makes me want to cry out:  What has become of Israel?  Is this what we made aliyah for?

History has taught us that in the face of entrenched injustice, it takes courageous action to bring about change.  Enough of that eerily reminiscent refrain about following the rules.  Faithfulness to the nightmarish labyrinth of disunion has become a new Torah.   Instead of throwing up their hands, principals and educators should unite and fight.

Let schools band together and say No more! Either all students are allowed to come to school – or none. No passes of any color. We will defend the fundamental rights and well-being of Israel’s children. We will not discriminate against students based on vaccination status. We will not banish healthy kids from the classroom.  No more shutting them up at home like lepers, depriving them of their education and social development, consigning them to endless hours waiting on line for needless tests. No more shaming and bullying. Not for this did we enter the education profession.  Not for this did our miracle country rise from the ashes. Enough!

Such a move would not only force the government’s hand – it would restore the faith of millions of parents like me in the school system that has let us terribly down.  And it would restore our children to normalcy before it’s too late.

About the Author
Ziona Greenwald, J.D., a contributing editor for The Jewish Press, is a writer and editor and the author of two children's books, Kalman's Big Questions and Tzippi Inside/Out. She lives with her family in Jerusalem.
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