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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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That’s the Way the World Is…

My children go to school behind fences, with an armed guard at the gates.
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Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90

I was talking to my son Elie about the Sandy Hook/Newtown tragedy and about some discussions I’ve been following on Twitter. The consensus of one group is that teachers should carry concealed weapons, making them better able to protect the children under their care.

“That’s stupid,” said Elie. “They need trained guards, and fences around the schools. And even if the security guard is killed…”

He continued but I got stuck at “even if the security guard is killed.” My sons are security guards. I can’t quite just walk past that statement of Elie’s without pausing but he was going on.

“And it would help the economy; give people jobs.”

He’s right. Securing schools in America so that they are all surrounded by fences and guarded by trained security would provide more jobs. But would America agree to live that way? The way we have been living for so long?

“That’s the way the world is,” Elie answered back. He’s too young to mourn the cynicism of that statement, too used to it being that way to know that it shouldn’t be natural to have to guard children with guns.

“I’m not even only talking about terrorism,” Elie continued while my brain took a quick trip down memory lane to when I was a child in the schools of America. “Even just against sick people.”

When I was a child, my school had a fence – around the playground area only – so that the balls didn’t go into neighboring properties. The schools were not locked; no guards, not metal detectors. There were no cameras, no monitors.

My children go to school behind fences, with an armed guard at the gates. A few times a year, and at times when security is heightened, policemen are added in front of the schools.

Part of me mourns that my children need to be protected in this way and part of me mourns that fact that it doesn’t bother them. The security guard is their friend; they know his name and greet him each day. That’s the way the world is…

Silly to wish it wasn’t but even sillier to ignore that it is. No, I do not believe teachers should be armed; that principals should be responsible for guarding children with their lives. If you put a security guard in front of a bank, then put one in front of your school. Your child should be the most precious part of your life.

In Israel, we have become accustomed to certain infringements on our lives. We go to a mall and do not hesitate to open the trunks of our cars, our purses. We empty our pockets. I sometimes feel “honored” to walk into the mall with Elie or Shmulik because they flash their ID and gun licenses and not only are they allowed to enter without being searched, but I get to go along for the ride.

The concept is logical – if he’s okay and he says you’re okay, go through. Years ago, an American security officer was explaining to an Israeli officer how they search every person. The Israeli answered, “if you search all, you search none.”

The goal here is not to be politically correct, it is to save lives. If a person who is acceptable and known to pose no security risk takes you through security, you are trusted too – but only so long as you are with them.

Actually, not really. Some of the people at the mall know that I am Elie and Shmulik’s mother and let me in without being checked – but it still feels like a privilege to me, something strange. For the most part, like all Israelis, I open my backpack or pocketbook; I walk through the metal detectors and answer the questions I am asked.

No, it is not a violation of my rights; it is a protection of my life and those around me. I can’t imagine the US putting security guards before their schools…and yet, I can’t avoid the reality that a security guard would have questioned and even blocked a young man who didn’t belong where he was going from entering the school.

Elie says, “that’s the way the world is.” I accepted long ago that this is the way we live here in Israel and it has never bothered me. I want that guard there because I have to know my children are being protected.

And yet…and yet…

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About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.

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