Monday, March 3, 2008

Heads or Tails?

Heads or Tails?
By Shifra Shomron

Once again I held up the heavy rusted tail and presented it to the sixth grade class. It was in excellent condition with all its fins and with the screw still attached at the end. "Come on, what is it? Any ideas?" I asked the girls. A student sitting in the front row looked at it very intently and then bravely suggested that it might be part of a watering system. It was an interesting idea, but quite far from the mark. So I put the tail down and proceeded to show the class the mortar head and shrapnel pieces. Also very well preserved - really in excellent condition.

The class gazed at them obediently, curiously, blankly. For some reason the blank look in their eyes really floored me. I hadn't foreseen this when planning my lesson entitled "Terror in S'derot". When imagining possible case scenarios, I had prepared myself for the fact that the girls might be scared, might cry, perhaps some of them know of family members or friends who have been injured, perhaps some might give voice to violent anti-Arab statements. Instead, none of this happened; rather I was standing in front of thirty well-behaved girls trying to deal with the one thing I hadn't imagined: that the class wouldn't guess that I was showing them a rocket head, tail and shrapnel pieces. The class started to get bored. They had had enough of the difficult guessing game; they just didn't know the answer, and it was up to me to continue the lesson.

So, in the end I had to resort to telling them the answer, and then proceeded with the rest of the presentation part of the lesson: where do rockets fall in Israel (and thus I hoped to reach the lesson's subject of S'derot)? What damage do they cause? How do you think you would feel if a rocket landed by you? Here the class answered nicely. It turned out that two of the students have relatives living in S'derot. I decided to share a personal story with the class – about a time when a mortar fell next to my house in Neve Dekalim, Gush Katif. It was an incredible story, but nonetheless it didn't grab them. I was telling it in easy English with appropriate hand gestures, and they were translating it with ease as I went along, and yet I sensed that the class just wasn't 'with me'! In fact, it got so I eventually felt as if I were a Martian attempting to tell some Earthlings about the Red Planet. My story was just so odd to them, so completely not connected with their lives. 'Shifra, Shifra,' I scolded myself mentally, 'try to realize: you're in Gan Yavne!'

But the self-scolding didn't help; I was still pretty shocked. So what if the class I taught lives in sheltered Gan Yavne? When communities in our country have been bombarded with rockets for the past seven years, how is it there is such a lack of connection with their plight? These six graders had seen the news. They were able to tell me what damage a rocket can cause, where they fall, how they would feel if one fell by them. But that was all on the cold intellectual level; not on the warm emotional level. They couldn't really understand this situation I was trying to describe to them with props, pictures and stories; it was beyond their experience, and therefore out of their true grasp.

I didn't feel comfortable saying it; being the one to awaken them to a rude reality. But yes, Gan Yavne six graders, this is a mortar head and this is a mortar tail and these are shrapnel pieces. The Arabs in the Gaza Strip have been shooting these for seven years now, and our Israeli government hasn't yet managed to put an end to this. This head hits the target, the tail flies some distance away, and the shrapnel pieces are flung in every direction. These rockets can damage houses, shock, injure, maim, and even kill. You've seen it on the news, perhaps. Children your age who live in S'derot run for shelter whenever they hear the siren announcing that a killer-rocket is on its way.

As we can see from the Kassams falling in Ashkelon, if we don't do everything to help the people of Sderot, we are quite likely to be dealing with an Arab barrage of rockets on our own doorstep wherever we happen to live in Israel. But more than the security issue, this is also a challenge for our love of our fellow Jew. Do we really feel their pain? Are we doing enough to help them - not out of concern for ourselves, but out of concern for them? Everyone of us needs to answer these questions by himself.

So, dear children, what would you like to write to the S'derot children? Make sure and decorate your card nicely! And then copy the new vocabulary words into your notebook. Don't forget the title and the date...



Shifra Shomron is an American-born writer who grew up and lived in Neve Dekalim Gush Katif until the highly disputed, tension-filled Israeli Disengagement from Gaza in 2005. She is the author of Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim, (2007), Mazo Publishers.


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3 comments:

abigail said...

If our "own" can't grasp what is happening on an emotional level, surely neither can the rest of the world. Which is just another illustration of why we (meaning the State of Israel and its government and army) need to stop hoping they will, and just do what needs to be done. Thanks for this sobering reminder.

Anonymous said...

Do the students have a similar reaction when learning about the Holocaust? Do they care about Hashem and His love for the land of Israel? If they truly seek Hashem's heart I believe they will begin to understand the love He has for His people and His land. If they put on a play or made a game or some other action, that would help them understand. If not then tell them all to go back to fifth grade where their hearts would be a little more open. Then possibly they could reach the prime minister, defense minister and education minister to teach them to care about the land and people of Israel.

Batya said...

Shifra, your article is magnificent. I feel so privileged that it's on my blog.

Thank you!!