Teachers have the privilege and the opportunity to experience one of the greatest gifts of parenthood – that of viewing the world through children’s eyes. As we engage the world with our students and our children we see things that we may have missed in our own childhood and we rediscover things that we have long forgotten.
I have had the pleasure this week of experiencing Israel through the eyes of our eighth graders. Since Sunday, I’ve been traveling with our current 8th grade from San Francisco to Israel, and, through multiple experiences in Israel.
On our first day, after a rigorous hike, we began our encounter with “the other”. We visited a home in a Druze village. Our host served us lunch and spoke about her religion, lifestyle and connection to Israel. From there, we did a little grocery shopping in SuperSol (the Safeway of Israel) and then entered a nearby Israeli Arab village. There we spent the afternoon participating in a most unusual program – the Jewish–Arab Youth Circus of the Galilee. This decade-old program seeks to bridge the gap between Israeli Jewish and Arab children through the language of circus. Our students learned various circus acts from the youngsters in the program and then we became the audience for the circus. I posed the question to our students if they could think of a similar mitzvah project that they could take on that would bridge the gap between two groups of kids who don’t routinely interact with each other in the States. The answers not in – but it is a mitzvah project worth taking on by some Wornick student.
Our second day focused on security and Israeli borders – first we looked toward Syria from atop the Golan Heights and, later in the day, we climbed the hills of the upper Galilee to observe Lebanon from a kibbutz that sits on that border. In the first site, some of our students engaged some UN soldiers from Ireland in conversation, and at the second site, we heard from the Druze soldiers of the IDF who guard the Lebanese border. We also met, and heard the story of, one of the founders of the kibbutz who came from Holland.
So what were the new insights for me as seen through the eyes of our students? Our students were surprised by the borders – how close everything is, so close that they could see several villages on the other side, that they could see both the UN and the IDF patrolling the area. They were struck by the assumption that “everyone” serves the country, and that a minority group, like the Druze, serves as well. Even our guide, who expressed his distaste of carrying a gun, expressed his responsibility to serve. The students realized that we don’t have a comparable sense of service in the United States. Students noticed the different way in which guns are understood in our country and in Israel. They noticed soldiers stopping in to buy a falafel with guns slung over their soldiers. Students also noticed differences in neighborhoods based on socio-economic status.
On our visit to a Talmudic period archeological site, Katzrin, students realized how very old this area is. They also developed a new understanding of “synagogue” – open spaces with seating around the periphery, and they saw this again the next day in Sfat. They also were able to connect Talmudic stories that they’ve heard to this site. Later in the day they applied their fifth grade percussion lessons to a lively drumming circle on a boat ride on the Kinneret.
On Thursday, when we focused on art and spirituality in the city of Sfat, students heard about artists that are inspired by the mystical concepts in the Kabbalah. They learned that there are people who live their lives thinking about big philosophical issues of good and evil with an emphasis on a human purpose to spread “goodness”. They carefully and respectfully questioned the artist asking him to explain how he could believe in both free will and religious determinism. Great question – interesting answer.
There are so many more images, and so many more to come. I am thankful that I am getting to see this world through our students’ eyes. I am also so grateful to see a group of young people who represent our school so well – they are inquisitive, observant, thoughtful, caring towards one and another and towards others.