So here is a picture of my Yakov a few years ago. A few days ago he graduated from the eighth grade. It was a screwball ceremony by U.S. standards. In the U.S., everyone gets dressed up, a few speeches are made, degrees or something to hold them are handed out, and refreshments are shared. People are home by lunch.
Not so here. Heck, we didn't even know it was graduation. My son had been practicing for an end of year play, and that's what we were attending. We were supposed to be there by 7:30, but got there ten minutes late knowing that nothing starts here at the stated time. People would obviously pray the afternoon prayer before any happenings anyway.
By eight, we were being ushered in. We were treated to some junior high type music, speeches were soon to be made by the principal, head of the local authority, parents representative of a parent whose last child was completing this school, etc.
It didn't take long sitting in a crowded auditorium to think how easy it would be to light a place like this up. Maybe I am odd, but thoughts like this occur to me all the time. I sit in a synagogue and think how easy it would be to pack a timed bomb into the stand used for Torah reading. It is both settling and unnerving. On the one hand, no one knows when the next strike will occur. On the other, Jews are 20% of the population in my area, and these thoughts of mine are more thoughts than worries. In other words, the desire to plan and execute such relatively simple attacks is not shared by enough of the local non-Jewish population for it to be a worry, or, if it is, policing activity is sufficient to thwart any, or at least most, plans to terrorize.
So the ceremony continues. The mother of the representative - who also happens to be a teacher - of the parents whose last child is leaving the school (very, very few have just one child here) gets up to bless the students, and I think to myself that I would bless them all to still be around when their time comes to leave the army. I am bothered. I really hate that this is the context in which my child is growing up.
So the speeches are made and its time for the kids to do their thing, and the play begins. We couldn't hear most of it - people just don't know how to do sound here - but eventually got the point. The theme, what else but the impact of a terrorist attack on the lives of the people around it, of course from a religious context, complete with the inspiriting of the jaded Russkie with a new-found patriotic zeal and the new-found respect of the secular girl for the religious boy, whom she had previously seen only as a part of the stilted monolith of the haredi world. To round it off, pure jingoism in the form of videos of soldiers marching around in formation, probably from memorial ceremonies and such.
I found it all disturbing. It's not that I don't respect belief or the notion of personal sacrifice, but I don't need the state, in the form of its schools, dragging my 14 year old through such dark themes. My son already has values, the highest of values in fact. It kind of disturbs me a little that he has no interest in being corrupted, but then it doesn't.
But that is not my point. What is is that our reality is sufficient. If this play had given tools to cope with our reality, I might have been okay with it. But it didn't. It very much felt like it was trying to push a particular point of view on my children. And while I might share that point of view, this is not how I want my child coming to his. But perhaps this push is in response to others in other directions. It seems the whole contest is a bit screwed up though. If our value were respect, the individual viewpoints would still have their place, but they would not be so sharply inserted into our world. It is this our educational system seems to be missing, or afraid of.
But that's all I have to say about that. I must admit, for all the hoopla that I didn't really expect to care for, I came out glad that my son had passed this milestone so damned well. He is so much more a person at his age than I was. I just can't help but be the proudest of parents.