It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a new blog post, and not because i’ve been empty of ideas or lacking in inspiration. In fact, in the past two weeks I’ve been flooded with potential subject matter — from parenting sick kids to navigating workplace politics to acclimating to the onslaught of Israel’s national holidays–but I’ve had no time to breathe, let alone open my laptop.
It’s a funny switch for me. I used to live by my laptop, and when my laptop wasn’t in front of me, my Blackberry was. I wasn’t one of these high-powered career women whose fingertips seemed biologically bound to her smartphone, but I definitely felt the need to constantly information gather and share.
Perhaps, my head is so full from absorbing and processing both the cultural changes, and the foreign language, that I have no time or energy left to scour message boards for pertinent information related to the health and wellness of our children, or hop onto Facebook to spread the word to my minions. Getting used to life in a new country is a full time job, and on top of that, I now have an actual, real-life full time job.
Since we moved here my children have been tasting freedom — and it’s a taste they like, along with chocolate spread and mitz-petel. Since I started a full time job in April, they’re depending even less on me and in fact, are often belligerent about doing things by themselves: from dressing to preparing food to walking to school on their own.
Which makes the anecdote I’m about to share even more interesting.
Over the past few weeks, we in Israel have moved through a series of three national holidays: Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (known colloquially as Yom HaShoah), “Holocaust Rememberance Day;” Yom HaZikaron, “Memorial Day;” and Yom HaAtzmaut, “Israel Independence Day.” These holidays, for Israelis, are serious business.
In addition to sirens sounding for moments of silence causing cars to stop in the middle of the highway; in addition to ceremonies in your communities and schools; and in addition to the endless television programming memorializing the fallen and honoring the heroes, our schoolchildren are really taught the real deal.
There’s no sugar-coating. There’s no vanilla version of what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust or what Israeli soldiers faced during Israel’s various wars. It seems as if Israeli children are indoctrinated (and I mean that in a good way) from a very early age with an understanding of what has been required to safeguard this country we live in.
The day before the Yom HaZikaron/YomHaatzmaut school and work holiday, my oldest son, who is eight and a half and in Second Grade in a public school came home with an interesting report of his day. He shared with me the news as if it was ordinary, but to me, it was a story you’d only hear in Israel. Or, at the very least, it was a story that would only be acceptable in Israel.
A game my son often plays with his friends is called “Ganav V’Shoter,” which is pretty much “Cops and Robbers.” That day at school, however, they came up with a twist on the original. They called it “Yehudim v’Nazim.”
Jews and Nazis.
Half the kids were the Jews and the other half were the Nazis, he told me. (The Nazis were the “bad guys.”) My kid and his classmates were creative. Some of the Jews got to be “partisans” and had more freedom to wander to various areas of the playground and were also granted the ability to free the Jews who were captured: They weren’t in jail, though, those captured Jews. They were locked in the Ghetto.
Yes, a timely twist on an age-old game. But not unexpected considering the history lessons they were receiving that week in school and at home.
Can you imagine a game of “Jews vs. Nazi” in the States? Only in Oklahoma or Arkansas, or some other white supremicist stronghold. Some place where the school psychologist wouldn’t be called in immediately or the ADL had any influence. I can’t be 100% sure it wouldn’t happen, but I think Holocaust education is only briefly glossed over in the States, if at all, and then only in older grades. It’s deemed inappropriate subject matter for young children. Right or wrong, I don’t know. But this is how it is. Not in Israel, though. Kids here, even during more peaceful times, need to understand the price and the impact of war.
My oldest son is fascinated with history and a rough and tumble kind of kid. The stories he heard at school or saw on the roll out movie screens behind the presenters at the various ceremonies didn’t haunt his dreams or leave a trail of fear. But, I do think he understands a little better the difference between living here in Israel and living in New Jersey; what it means for him as a boy, and as a Jew.
It haunted me, though, as the mother of three children who one day may be required to fight battles that take place far away from the playground.
Yes, this month has so far been a busy month for us, from dealing with various viral infections to a new job to a change in season to the normal balagan of being new immigrants. But it was also a practice in being Israeli citizens. In contributing to the economy. In remembering our fallen. In honoring our heroes. In crying over the losses of others. In celebrating the strength and beauty of a nation in which we now live.
And for my family, it was a practice in being independent in ways we’ve never been before.