I’m going to miss the 25-mile commute to school now that we’re almost moved into the two-and-half minute zone, and here’s why:
Yesterday I had my son in the front seat (yes, I know that it’s dangerous because of the airbag, but I had to separate him from his sister, Little Miss Pincher Claws, and the third row of seats was folded down because the trunk was full of stupid chozzerai from the storage unit that we shlepped across the country for no apparent reason other than nostalgia like I couldn’t buy a moldy wicker chair at the Goodwill in Savannah? so I drove very carefully, I promise, but go ahead and call CPS if it makes you feel better about yourself) and out of nowhere he asks me why I get upset when people talk badly about Israel. I think he was remembering one of my neighborly tiffs in California because I have the only upsetting encounters I have about Israel in the South are with Christian evangelists who love Israel a little too much.
He seemed so grown-up sitting there in the passenger side, so I began a thoughtful, honest interpretation of the facts of the Middle East as I understand them, starting with how the Jews lived in Israel after Moses got ’em most of the way there, the diaspora and how Jews scattered all over the world after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Spanish Inquisition and the Russian pogroms and a few other examples of how we’ve been chased, forcibly converted and killed but still managed to keep our traditions alive, all the way up the through the Holocaust and Hitler and six million he’s learning fractions in school, and when I said that was a third of the entire global Jewish population, his eyes got very wide. Then the birth of Israel in 1948 when grandma was a little girl, right? and how the Jews could finally come home if they so chose after all that time. That took about ten minutes. I’m no history professor like some smart people I know and I’m sure I left some major things out, but I was trying to make a point, and he’s only seven. He’ll get better details later on, I hope.
So then I explained that there were other people living in the land we call Israel, only they called it Palestine, and they weren’t Jewish. After WWII we tried to split up the land to give them their own state, but they decided they’d rather have nothing than share, and so have been “refugees” ever since. I told him what about the amazing transformation the Jewish settlers of Israel have created in the desert, of the beautiful forests planted, the busy cities, the strong military, the thriving science and technology sectors, the political freedom to be who you are. I also explained that Israel has its problems, too, and one of them is that some Palestinians are still very unhappy with their situation and do horrible things like blow up busses and restaurants, and that’s called terrorism. The Israeli government sometimes bulldozes Palestinian houses to find the people who do those things, which hurts people. I said that the Palestinians and many other people have been told lies, like the Jews stole the land from the Palestinians. Many people who want to stand up for what’s right in the world feel sorry for them and want to help them, and they have a very negative perspective of Israel’s government and army. I told my son that I have a lot of compassion for the Palestinian people, too, especially the mothers and children, but blowing up innocent people is not the way to get what they want. I told him I pray all the time that everyone who lives in Israel will see their other choices, seek peaceful solutions and not use violence against each other.
All of this led up to trying to answer to his question as to why it is I get so upset when people start shit-talking Israel. Part of it is that even though I’m positive they don’t have their facts straight, I end up sputtering. I’m far too emotional for rational debate and again, I’m no history professor. Everyone is entitled their (idiotic) opinion, but I get so frusturated with myself that I can’t defend her better. It was an incomplete lesson, for sure, but I ended it with the admonition that we love and support Israel, imperfect as she is. I figured he’d at least have something to say when yes, when it’s his time to stand up for his people.
Feeling pretty good about myself as a Jewish mother and thinking that maybe I had made up for not sending him to Shalom School this year, I looked over at him. He hadn’t said a word in many miles and was staring out the window, apparently deep in thought. Then he shouted and pointed. “Look, Mom! A vulture!” I deflated like a sad balloon, all that hot air wasted. “Did you hear anything I just spent the last thirty minutes of talking about?” I wanted to ask, but we were already at school. He hopped out with a smile and a wave, as untroubled and innocent as he should be.
Later that day, however, while we were picking up his sister from preschool, we noticed the “Letter of the Week” display featured “P.”
“Okay, ‘P’ is for…” I prompted my moppets.
“Pizza,” said the small one. “Play. Party.”
“Platypus,” said the big one. “Popsicle. Pepper.”
“Poop.” That was me. Can’t help it, we’re a “poop-is-hilarious” family. Same goes for farts.
We stood around for a few more seconds, shouting out “P” words. Then my son yells loud over the din of that only forty three-year-olds hopped up on Juicy Juice can create: “I know! Palestinians! You know, Mom, those lying terrorists you were talking about this morning!”
Oh Lord. What have I done?
Anyone with an actual lesson plan about what to teach children about this stuff knows where to find me.