My daughter loves to draw.
And tonight, between snack time and dinner, we went through her sketchbook together, where she draws pictures and writes little stories.
She loves drawing people, and dolphins, and flamingos, and houses.
Sometimes, she sketches with pencil — a grey scale world on a white page.
Other times, bright colors.
Like this picture of Santa Claus.
My daughter loves Santa.
Even though we’re Jewish and we light the menorah and we don’t have a Christmas tree.. she LOVES Santa.
But we know a family in Ramle, just 15 minutes away, a family that celebrates Christmas, and serves hummus instead of figgy pudding – a family that sings Christmas carols in Arabic, and serves maklouba instead of ham.
And every year they have an amazing Christmas party with a real-live Santa Claus that hands out cotton candy and speaks Hebrew and Arabic.
So my sweet girl has experienced Santa, and she can’t wait to go back.
So, tonight, while dinner simmered on the stove and she drank hot chocolate, we went through her book until the end.
And there, on the last page, after pictures of smiling babies, and flamingos and peacocks and a goldfish named Pinchas, was one line of Hebrew in dark pencil.
She read it out loud for me.
“All the Arabs hate the Jews and want to kill us and take our land.”
I turned to face her and I put my hands on her soft cheeks.
“Baby, who told you that.”
“Yael at school.”
“Baby, listen to me. It isn’t true.”
“But Yael says it is. She says there are people with knives who are trying to kill us and take our land.”
We had talked about this before. In fact, I kept them home during the first days of the terror wave so we could talk about it in safe, broad strokes before their friends or their teachers said something.
And now someone DID say something, and my daughter has written in her special art book that “all the Arabs hate the Jews and want to kill us and take our and.”
“Look baby,” I said to her with my hands still on her cheeks. “There are Arabs who want to kill Jews. They’re called terrorists. And there are also Jews who want to kill Arabs. They’re also called terrorists. There are bad people in the world. And there are also good people.
She looked at me sceptically.
“Remember when you met Santa Claus in Ramle?” I asked her.
“Do you remember Santa Claus was speaking a language you didn’t understand some of the time?”
“That was Arabic. Santa Claus is an Arab,” I said. “And most of the people there, too. The kids you played with, their parents, the woman who gave you a present. They were all Arab”
“They don’t want to kill us,” she said. “They were nice.”
“Exactly. And remember when our door was broken and our landlord wasn’t around? Muhammad fixed it. He’s an Arab, too.”
“Ohh. If he hadn’t fixed our door, we would have to keep crawling in through the window like before.”
“Remember when you were really sick and I took you to Kaplan Hospital? Rembember how you were shaking and crying because everything hurt and your whole body was burning up with fever?”
“Yes. The doctor gave me medicine and a blanket to help me stop shaking.”
“He’s an Arab too.”
Her eyes shone.
“Sweet Girl, it’s true, there are people who are Arabs who hate us. And there are also Jewish people who hate Arabs. But it’s more important that we also remember that there are people who are Arabs who are just like us — there are teachers and doctors and lawyers and gardeners and nurses and carpenters. and fire fighters and ambulance drivers and moms and dads and little kids and…. “
“And Santa Claus!”
“Yes and Santa Claus.”
“Mama, why would Yael lie to me?”
“She isn’t lying,” I said. “She really believes its true, and…”
“Well, I have to talk to her tomorrow and tell her why she’s wrong. Maybe she can come with us and meet Santa!”
And then, my daughter picked up her pencil and turned back to the words “All the Arabs hate the Jews and want to kill us and take our land.”
And she turned her pencil over until the eraser touched the first letter. She pressed hard over it until it was gone. And then the next one. And the next… until all the words had disappeared.