by Hannah Tobin Cohen
Republished from forward.com.
Do the following scenarios describe a Disney movie or the latest headline about Israel? The forcible separation of a baby from its mother, villagers persecuting a feared outsider, and factions competing in a deadly battle to control the land.
Spoiler alert: it’s both. Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King tackle these tricky subjects with young kids.
So why are adults so afraid to do the same when it comes to Israel?
While we allow our children to watch movies packed with flawed heroes and moral ambiguity, Israel education continues to be a manichaean struggle between good versus bad. Our schools, camps, and even we ourselves shut our children out of honest conversations about Israel for fear of them not being “ready.”
Well, they are.
As part of the research team at the Children’s Learning About Israel Project of Brandeis University, I have spent the past eight years conducting hundreds of interviews with Jewish kids about Israel. Following a cohort of 35 Jewish elementary schoolers as they aged from kindergarten to middle school, I heard them express their thoughts and feelings about the country. Listening to these kids discussing Israel, it’s clear they have something to teach the adults in their lives.
The children in our study are spread across a diverse group of schools: One is Reform, one Conservative, and one a non-denominational community school. One has a large Persian-Jewish population, one has predominantly Ashkenazi students, and one has a large number of Israeli expatriate families.
There is just one area in which our cohort is uniform: Our children are all frustrated and confused about Israel. And it’s because of us.