Carpool Chat

minivanI’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.

8 thoughts on “Carpool Chat

  1. The best lesson plan is a family outing to the Holy Land itself! Or that could turn out to be the biggest bore of his young life. Either way, Israel rocks and once you get the bug there’s no doubt’n the truth! You’re welcome for Shabbat and you can see how we Yenta in the east.

  2. ‘What have I done?’ The right thing, and good for you. Now you don’t have to wonder – I’m a kick-’em-in-their-asses’ pro-Israel anti-Palestinian kind of guy. While I read your latest post I wondered whether you sent your son to some sort of Jewish educational program. What happened to Shalom School (does it really exist; it sounds kitch)? Chabad is free, and you’ll wind up keeping kosher (not to mention taharas hamishpaha). What are you waiting for? It’s good for your kids – emes!

  3. Hilarious. And let’s face it- it’s a hell of a lot more fair and balanced than what Palestinians teach their children about Jews.

  4. 1. Don’t worry about it too much – there’s only so much one can say to a seven year old.
    2. Just try to remind him that not all (or even most) Palestinians are terrorists or liars; they’re just people like Israelis – and we- are.
    3. If he keeps saying things like that, you can also talk about some of the more difficult things – like not all the houses that Israel demolishes are to search for terrorists – that some of them are demolished because of political reasons – like settlers wanting more lands to build on, or even racism, sometimes (like the administrative demolitions near Jerusalem – no one claims that has anything to do with terrorists)- just like anywhere else where people are involved with politics – and that because of that many Palestinians never have good interactions with Israelis, and so don’t know that your average Israeli is a decent person who wants the same things that they do – a place to live, a future for their children…
    4. And then expect to be completely ignored whatever you say.
    Good luck, and don’t worry too much.

  5. “Palestinians! You know, Mom, those lying terrorists you were talking about this morning!” Wow that was a hell of a finale to the story! Bless the children and their selective hearing. They’re like sponges so make sure you keep at it. I use analogies that they can comprehend then I move on to the details as they’re thoughts mature. I agree with Paul, you’re atleast trying to be as fair as possible.

  6. That’s actually very similar to the chat I had with my 7-year-old, up until he asked ‘What about the people who lived there before Moses?” Not being an historian either I am never entirely sure how to answer that part…I think you did fine.

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