Sunday, September 21, 2008
This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 15 November 1999
The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995 shocked Israelis in a way these unflappable survivors had never been shocked before. This people, so inured to conflicts with external enemies, struggled with the idea that an Israeli Jew had killed his own country's leader.
There have been many repercussions, but none more significant (to me) than the campaign to teach children how to deal with violent feelings of their own, as well as violent behavior on the part of others. This campaign began with a commercial showing certain kids being ostracized: one example was a boy waiting in vain for his birthday guests to come to his party. The message at the end of the commerical was: if you hit other kids, you won't have any friends.
Then came a catchy music video aimed at getting children to recognize when their behavior has gone beyond the boundary of what is acceptable. The lyrics encourage the kids to stop and think about what they are doing, then to change their behavior and make peace with their enemies (much as the country itself is attempting to do). Throughout the video, the singers, as well as various celebrities and politicians, demonstrate a special gesture. This gesture is intended to be used as a signal by the children to remind them to stop reacting violently to negative situations.
Several different story lines were created as different backdrops for this message. One shows two boys lying on stretchers in a hospital emergency room, separated only by a curtain. As each boy is being treated by a doctor, he tells his version of the fight between them. Their words are almost identical. When their cuts and scrapes are tended, both boys stand and come face to face. They offer each other hesitant smiles, then use the special signal created by the anti-violence campaign. As you look at these two bruised and bedraggled kids tentatively smiling at one another, you are hard-pressed to see any difference between them.
At the start of the school year, I noticed a new course in my daughter's curriculum. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, she (indeed, all the kids in her grammar school) are taking a course in violence prevention. This involves, in part, weekly assemblies, classroom discussion, and even homework.
It is sad indeed that it took a tragedy to bring these efforts about. I only hope they will make a lasting difference.
(c) Amy Samin