The Class of 2020 and Lessons From a Pandemic

Photo Credit: Makif Omer
The 22nd Graduating Class (Kaf-Bet), Omer Comprehensive High School, September 1, 2019

How many times have I heard?

From myself,
From my kids,
From their teachers,
From their coaches….

“He CAN’T miss that international tournament”
“I CAN’T miss my math class”
“He CAN’T miss practice”
“He CAN’T miss rehearsal”
“I CAN’T miss that deadline”
“She CAN’T miss her private lesson”
“I CAN’T miss that party”
“She CAN’T miss her horseback riding lesson”

Well… GUESS WHAT Folks?
In the past few weeks, we’ve learned an interesting lesson….

She CAN….because…

Man Plans, God Laughs

For the first time in more than two generations, the entire 12th grade in Israel and in many other parts of the world will, in all likelihood, graduate quietly – no prom, no ceremony, no parties, no pomp and circumstance.

Is it tragic? Of course not. People dying in a pandemic is tragic. People not being able to feed their families is tragic.

Nonetheless, for 12th graders all over the world, it can’t be easy and as a mom whose house was always open to all, I can say that every single kid I know –  with the support of the devoted educational staff at our school (Itzik and Efrat – that is you) – is handling the situation with grace and maturity.

The narrative herein is part of their story as seen through my experience and that of my 12th grader son.

“This is my last year of high school. I WILL take part in my graduating class’ Grand Entrance to the school and be with my friends on September 1st (2019)”,  He announced defiantly via the phone, at a distance of 12,000 kilometers from me.

As during every summer since we returned from a three-year furlough of sorts in California, I was in the States with my youngest daughter visiting my parents and family. Considering that because of basketball, he was scheduled to begin the school year after September 10th, I was beyond taken aback by my son’s sudden announcement, as were many others in the Israeli wheelchair basketball world.

Photo Credit: Ziv Barak

He continued, “Wheelchair basketball is my passion and for the past 7 years, I’ve done nothing else but practice, compete and try to make it through school.

Photo Credit: Carmel Vernia

No scouts (Tzofim), barely any parties, no hanging out, nothing… and that was okay but now, this is our last year together. Next year, my friends will all be in the army and I will probably be in college on the other side of the world. I NEED to start the year together with them. I don’t know how everything will end”.

On the other side of the world, clutching my cell phone, in my dad and his wife’s basement, I felt warm tears stream down my face.

At the ripe old age of 51, I knew the heavy price my 16-year old son, who has risen above so much and is considered to be one of Israel’s most promising wheelchair basketball players, would have to pay for his decision to forego a career opportunity because of his unrelenting desire, for once, to be a kid and partake in the most typical of Israeli 12th grade traditions – the Grand Entrance and to start this last year, together with his peers.

Controlling my voice to the best of my ability, I responded, “I love you. I stand with you.”

Amit paid the price and to this day, in certain ways, he continues to pay, although I will never forget and always be grateful for the support that his home club (AKA second family), the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled, provided him during that trying time.

Nonetheless, he took part in the Grand Entrance on September 1st together with his classmates and during this year was more present in school and in teenage life than in any other previous year since he was blessed to have discovered the sport.

Photo Credit: Amit Vigoda

The memories of that Entrance, of Purim, of friendships and of the Senior Play will accompany him in the years to come, at the University of Texas at Arlington, at future wheelchair basketball tournaments (national, international and intercollegiate) and beyond.

Photo Credit: Makif Omer

Looking back, because hindsight is indeed 20/20, I am thrilled that he fully experienced the commencement of his final year of compulsory education because Amit, his classmates and all 12th graders in Israel and most of the world will not be following the paths of their predecessors.

When this pandemic is over, we will all crawl out of our Netflix holes, scarred to varying degrees, but hopefully kinder. On that day, I have no doubt that these kids, who grew up together and this past September. together, made their final Grand Entrance onto the Omer Comprehensive High School’s sprawling campus, will embark on the continuation of their life journeys, incorporating the historical events that stole their prom but prepared them to change our world for the better.

Photo Credit: Shilav Tibi
Amit, Irena, Roi K, Lotem, Shir, Rose L, Rotem, Oded

Amit, Oded, Paz, Lotem, Irena, Shoham, Eitan, Roi K., Roi L., Rotem and the rest of the Kaf-Bet (21st) Graduating Class of the Makif Omer Comprehensive School, I am proud of you, I salute you and excitedly await to see the wonderful places you’ll all go.

About the Author
Zimra was born in Budapest and grew up in New York City. She immigrated to Israel in 1994 and for the past two decades has worked with diverse for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves as a resource development expert on the Civics and Shared Education team at the Center for Educational Technology (CET) in Tel Aviv. Zimra is mother to 4 children, ages 12 to 21. Inspired by her 16-year old son Amit, a lower limb amputee, she is passionate about competitive wheelchair basketball and spends much of her free time rooting for her favorite teams. Today, she and her family are living in the Negev.