Like most kids, my son Adi is naturally curious. Regardless of the topic of conversation, he is constantly questioning and trying to understand what’s going on.
Despite my graduate school degree, I have often deferred to my husband or Internet research to answer many of his questions (no I don’t know what country killer bees are indigenous to or the hottest place in the universe).
However, since making aliyah, he has asked a whole new slew of questions that no quick Google search can help me answer. For example, when we first visited a mall here in Israel, my son was surprised to find armed security guards searching our trunk and asking whether we had any neshek (guns).
I explained to him that the guards’ job was to ensure that no one – other than policemen and soldiers – brought any weapons into the mall. My son was confused: Why would anyone else want to bring weapons into a mall?
He was similarly confused by my warning not to touch balloons he might find here in Israel. What could possibly be the problem?
Unfortunately, incendiary balloons are a popular weapon of choice to attack Israeli farmland. And from time to time, these balloons drift beyond their anticipated targets and find their way to city streets as well.
The first time I walked onto our patio – a day after making aliyah – I found a balloon in our garden and had a bit of a panic attack. How did it end up here? Was it dangerous? At the advice of a Modi’in mom, I called the Municipality hotline. The person on the other end of the line walked me through a series of questions – Was there any attachment to the balloon? Was there any Arabic writing? How many balloons were there – before consulting with the local police and determining that the balloon was just a plain old balloon and posed no danger.
We have also found ourselves confronted with many questions regarding what it means to be Jewish or religious. This past Shabbos, our downstairs neighbors hosted a 20th birthday party for their son. Forget about coronavirus concerns; Adi wondered how Jewish neighbors who wish us “Shabbat Shalom” could be hosting a party with a boombox blaring music and playing darbukas (a type of small drum) on Shabbat.
He was also surprised to learn that not all the restaurants in Modi’in are “kosher enough” for our family to eat at. How could food be kosher for some and not for others?
Perhaps the hardest questions have related to the political issues here in Israel. While walking to Motzei Shabbos family learning each week, my son passes by a small, but vocal anti-Netanyahu demonstration. “Why are they protesting?” he asks. “Why do they want Netanyahu to go?” (The sign of the movement is “lech,” which my son knows means go). “Why are people so angry?”
How to explain this to a six-year-old?
In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, my son’s school had a special tochnit (program). Unfamiliar with the history and working hard to understand Hebrew, my son paid close attention. He gathered that Rabin had been an Israeli leader who was killed, but he didn’t understand by whom or why.
As we were still learning together over Zoom, he turned to me to fill in the blanks. When I tried to explain that Rabin was killed by someone who didn’t agree with ideas, my son was puzzled. When I added that he had been killed by another Jew, my son was confounded. “Why would a Jew kill another Jew – it’s against the Torah and against the law!”
My son’s teacher explained an important lesson as part of the tochnit. She told the children that there are two important midot (traits) that we must always have: savlanut (patience) and sovlanut (tolerance). In life we will meet people who are different from us – people of different religious beliefs, people of different levels of religious observances, people with different political views.
We may have strong disagreements with these people about how we should live, how the country should run, what the future should look like, etc. However, we must always have patience and tolerance. We must possess patience to explain ourselves and tolerance for views other than our own.
We’ve embraced this lesson and try to discuss how it applies as questions continue to arise. Yes, there is a political divide in Israel, but everyone is trying to ensure a safe future for our homeland. Yes, people observe mitzvot differently, but we share a Jewish values and identity. Yes there are those who threaten our safety and wish for us to leave Israel, but perhaps with time and effort, they will seek to live beside us in peace. And we all hope for a day when life is simpler and safer for all.
May we all be blessed that such times arrives soon.