Sivan Rahav Meir
Sivan Rahav Meir

To swim against the current

1. Ten Commandments for protecting your child

“I believe this is the number one problem in our country,” in the words of psychologist Debbie Gross, founder and director of Tahel – Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children. As we listen to the radio, the news headlines are about the current heatwave, the Indian PM’s historic visit to Israel and also, right at the end, about the Tel Aviv teacher who molested the young girls in his charge and who was remanded in custody. Debbie remarks that by the time this op-ed appears in print, another similar case of abuse will most likely be publicized.

“This is by far our most serious problem, but the fact that we are not aware of the dimensions of child abuse, is problematic in itself. Abused children tend to grow up and become abusive adults. They influence their parents, siblings and friends. The educational, emotional and economic damage is indescribable. Dealing with it ought to be our number one priority.”

She asked to meet me at the start of the summer vacation because, in her experience, day camps and other informal groups, coupled with boredom and free time are fertile ground for child abuse. Tahel runs workshops, professional training and a crisis intervention emergency helpline and now Debbie wants me to help publicize the “Ten Commandments”, a simple leaflet she has prepared which lists the ten basic principles that parents and teachers must inculcate in their children. She asked me to spread the message, adding that: “it’s far more important than who Herzog will support in the second round of the Labor primaries.”

Teach Your Child:

  • The Three T‘s: To say No, To run away and To tell someone.
    If something unpleasant happens to your child, teach him to refuse, go away quickly and tell someone he trusts about what happened.
  • That it is permissible, and necessary, to say “NO” to adults, even if they are family members. Children are frightened of those in authority, and we must teach them that they need not always agree to do what a “more important” adult wants from them.
  • That they must say “NO” to an grown stranger who requests assistance. An adult is not supposed to ask a child for help. The ingrained willingness to help, together with the moral of fairytales (Chana and the Shabbat Dress or Red Riding Hood) must be pushed aside and children must never go anywhere alone with an adult. If the child wants to be polite, she should tell him to ask another adult for help.
  • That she must always request permission from her parents. You need to know what she is doing on vacation, who she is with and when she is coming home.
  • Practice real-life situations with your child, tell him what he should do in certain circumstances and discuss with him what is the best course of action.
  • Teach your child the difference between “good secrets” and “bad secrets,” ones that she can and should keep to herself because they make her happy and others that she must share with someone else.
  • Don’t leave your child alone with an adult unless you trust this adult. Be aware of what is going on and try to be around. Molesters tend to look for weak victims, ones who look like they won’t tell anyone or ones who do not seem to have a strong parental figure to protect them.
  • Teach children appropriate names for the private parts of their body. It’s not enough to tell them not to repeat the crude words they pick up at the park or in school. You must make it quite clear to them that no one has the right to touch them.
  • Set rules for safe internet use. Install a filter program and place the computer in an easily accessible position at home, such as the kitchen or living room. Do not allow your child to use the computer or smartphone in her room without supervision. We teach our children that they must not go with strangers, but the strangers lurking on social media are far more dangerous.
  • Encourage them to express their feelings, especially negative ones. He should learn to talk about his fears, guilt and confusion and not only about his good experiences and feelings. Show him your human side and don’t be afraid to share your feelings when things go wrong for you.

2. Religion in schools: A fresh new look

This was such a refreshing speech. At the height of the endless debate about the “religionization” of the state school system, the Tavor pre-army leadership academy held its graduation ceremony. Amichai Chikli, who directs this non-religious academy is a former company commander in the Egoz elite unit who does not cover his head with a kipa. His message to the graduates and their parents as they prepare to enlist in the IDF is worth listening to.

“What message can I give to you as you finish your ten months in Tavor? Maybe this is a good opportunity to reiterate the reason why we are gathered here. In a nutshell, the reason is that: we are privileged to be part of the best drama series in the history of the world – the drama of the Jewish people. This is the people who gave the world the Shabbat, the Ten Commandments – not to murder or commit adultery, the first slave uprising, the first social-welfare laws, the Book of Books (the world’s biggest bestseller, not even beaten by Harry Potter) and who are the source of inspiration for Western culture.

It is a great merit and privilege to be part this great story, but there are also duties and responsibilities. The wisest of men, King Solomon wrote in the first chapter of Proverbs: “Listen my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” The Jewish people has achieved all it has because of its amazing ability to pass on its message from one generation to the next. Even in the most unimaginably difficult circumstances, our people knew how to stick to their faith and culture. Yet unbelievably, when our physical wellbeing is at an all-time high, both in Israel and in the US, now of all times, a question-mark hovers over the future existence of the Jewish people.

It’s not because of Hamas or the Iranians, we are the cause of the doubt. Yigal Allon wrote on this subject: “In defiance of all the laws of history, we succeeded in swimming against all the other currents and now as a people we must swim against the strongest current of all, against ourselves.”

We have gathered here in order to swim against the current, against the extreme wave of individualism which views the family and children as a burden, to swim against those who consider nationalism to be stifling and narrow-minded, against those for whom the national homeland is a crude and indecent term, and for whom the Torah is a derogatory word. When we talk about swimming against the tide we do not mean a battle against the forces of evil, but rather a resistance by increasing the forces of good. We tried to instill in you a feeling of respect for and identification with the wonderful story of this nation. We strove to open your eyes to the cultural and spiritual treasures of our people. Were we successful in our mission? It is too early to determine, time will tell. I will end by once again quoting my teacher and mentor Yigal Allon: “There have always been groups of people in the Jewish nation who feel burdened by their past and they are the first ones to do plastic surgery on their spiritual and national features in order to make them fit in with the latest cosmopolitan fashion. However, only those who had the courage to be true to themselves were able to make the greatest contribution to the universal culture.”

About the Author
Sivan Rahav Meir is a media personality and lecturer. A Jerusalem resident, she is the World Mizrachi’s scholar-in-residence. Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands of listeners around the world. Sivan lectures in Israel and overseas about the media, Judaism, Zionism and new media. She was voted by Globes newspaper as most popular female media personality in Israel and by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.
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