For those looking for a way to talk with your children about the current situation in Israel, this piece has been circulating among a number of Jewish day schools and is super helpful. I’ve found it especially helpful in talking to my older son. It was edited by Debra Shaffer Seeman, who has a Masters in Education from Harvard, as well as Jonathan Magen, Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnick, and Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed.
The security situation in Israel is complicated and changes quickly. Sometimes it is hard to know how to engage our children in conversations about current events around Israel. This document is geared for parents of children ages 6-13 to help enter into conversations about the current situation in Israel. Please carefully screen all videos and photos before sharing them and trust your instincts about your child’s ability to process this information and the graphic images.
What is going on in Israel?
In the past year the Hamas organization has been launching rockets on cities in Israel, destroying land and buildings, and sending people to rush to shelters for protection. The government of Israel decided that the people of Israel needed more protection. Therefore on Wednesday November 14, 2012 Operation Amud Anan, Operation Pillar of Defense was launched. This military operation is trying, in a very careful and measured way, to eliminate these attacks on Israel. It can be a scary time in Israel right now, and as Jews who feel a deep connection to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people, we are thinking about everyone who is living through this conflict. We know that the Israeli Defense Forces are trying very hard to protect innocent civilian life in Gaza. We also understand that rocket launchers have to be eliminated and stopped from hurting people in Israel.
For more information: http://www.israelemb.org/washington/pages/default.aspx
Who is Hamas?
Hamas is the political party which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007. According to the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Israel, Hamas is a terrorist organization. The people who lead Hamas have proclaimed that they want to hurt Jews and to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians who live in Gaza are not all members of Hamas. Hamas has been shooting missiles at Israel from Gaza and using people from Gaza to protect themselves.
Why has Israel launched this Operation?
Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 12,000 rockets into Israel in the past 12 years.
In response to the rocket attacks which have significantly accelerated in recent days, the Israel Defense Forces have launched a widespread campaign against terror targets in Gaza. Operation Pillar of Defense has two main goals: to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
What does “being at war” look like in Israel for people living in Southern Israel (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva)?
Some Israelis, who live outside of the Southern Region, are not experiencing this as a daily war. Other Israelis, who do live down South, have been spending their time in bomb shelters, in an attempt to protect themselves from incoming rocket attacks. They cannot go to school, to the mall, or even walk around outside, because of the threat of the rockets.
It is hard to go about “normal” business knowing that a siren may soon sound to warn of an incoming rocket attack. When a person hears the siren, they have between 15 and 45 seconds to get to a safe place. Can you measure how many steps you can take while you count to 45? It is also hard to sleep at night, not knowing if there is going to be a siren. Here is one article that explains what you do when a siren is heard.
As of Friday morning November 16, 2012, Israel had starting drafting 16,000 army reservists.
What is it like to be a kid in Israel so that we can talk about life beyond this situation?
Where do I go for updates about the situation?
What is the response of the United States?
This was published by the US Department of State on November 14, 2012.
“We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination.”
What can I do?
There are many different ways as a family and a community to express your support for Israel during these difficult times and throughout the year. The following are a few examples of how your family might be able to come together in support of Israel today and every day:
A) Reach out to your local Federation or Israeli Consulate for updates and information about making donations to support families in the South of Israel.
B) Regularly update your social media platforms with news from Israel and Israeli media.
C) Let your representatives in Congress know you stand behind Israel.
D) Let your local media outlets know you stand behind Israel.
E) Share this document with your child’s school and email your child’s teacher to inform them that you had this conversation.
F) Organize a group of families who live in your area to meet together so that you can discuss the situation as a group.
G) Play Israeli music, buy an Israeli book, cook some Israeli food, find ways to help your family celebrate the positive of Israeli life and remember our connections with a Jewish people during these difficult days. Support the Israeli economy.
How do I enter the conversation with my children?
Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about recent developments in Israel. Follow your child’s lead and answer their questions honestly and with simple facts. If you are not sure how to answer their questions, tell them that you’re not sure and then get back to them after you check the facts. Carefully screen any photos or video footage before you show them to your child.
1. Have you heard about Israel in the news recently? I’d like to talk about what has been going on there this week.
2. Sometimes scary things happen in our world. These events are not happening in America, but I want you to hear about this because it is something I am thinking about right now…
3. I know you are hearing us worry about Israel and I want to talk about some of what the children in Israel are experiencing…
4. You know Israel is so important to our family and right now there are some special things we can do to help Israel. Let’s talk about what is going on and how we can help.
Songs about Israel
Here are some links to YouTube videos which reflect our hopes for peace in Israel
Write a prayer together:
One of the things Jews do to express their connection to the Jewish people and to the Jewish State is talk about it in the language of prayer. What words of prayer do you want to share to express your feelings about Israel and this situation?
Feel free to contact me with questions or for additional support at firstname.lastname@example.org