Why I took my Children to Palestine: Raising Ethical Jewish Children in the Age of the Zionist Empire

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Many Jewish families take their children to Israel to strengthen their children’s Jewish identities. I, as a Jewish mother, instead took my children to Palestine. Rather than touring the modern Israeli city of Tel Aviv, we toured the heavily occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Rather than going to Israeli resorts to float in the dead sea, we took infrequent “Arabic showers” where water for bathing is heated on the stove because fuel is too expensive to have continuous running hot water. Instead of going to the Ayalon Institute, a Tel Aviv museum of munitions productions from 1945 to 1948, we picked up the tear gas canisters and rubber bullet casings that scatter the ground in West Bank villages.

Why, as a Jewish mother would I choose this option for my children? Isn’t this a terrible choice for a children’s vacation and shouldn’t adolescent American Jewish children be shielded from the ugly realities of war and oppression, allowed simply to enjoy themselves in Israel without the knowledge of what goes on the other side of the Separation Wall?

Zionist narratives permeate Hebrew schools and Jewish summer camps across America. They teach Jewish children to celebrate the founding of the modern nation state of Israel and that mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces is an honor and sacrifice that Israeli youth make for the sake of all Jews throughout the world. As participants in Hebrew school and Jewish summer camp, my children have already been heavily exposed to this Zionist propaganda. I wanted them to see with their own eyes the truth of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and meet with their hearts and bodies the thoughtful and kind human beings, who are just like them, but suffer everyday from Israel’s military occupation.

The Sh’ma, one of the most important prayers of Judaism, begins with, “Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One”. It goes on to says, “And you shall love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children,…”

For me, diligently teaching this to my children means passing down to them the responsibility to work for justice. This is especially important when injustice is being perpetrated in their names as Jews. It was for this reason that instead of simply taking my children to see Israel and pray at the Wailing Wall, I instead took them to see Palestine and protest at the Apartheid Wall.

*For clarification, our visit to Palestine/Israel included going to places of historic Jewish religious significance, such as the Wailing Wall, and was filled with incredibly joyful and rich experiences of human connection, historical meaning, and family bonding.

**A special heartfelt thanks to Katya, for joining us on this incredible journey.

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** For clarification, our visit to Palestine/Israel included going to places of historic Jewish religious significance, such as the Wailing Wall, and incredibly joyful and rich experiences of human connection, historical meaning, and family bonding.

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22 thoughts on “Why I took my Children to Palestine: Raising Ethical Jewish Children in the Age of the Zionist Empire

  1. Your courage to show your children the reality and the sufferings Palestinians are going through for the past 60 years, must be admired. These children when they grow up, in future, will definitely stand for peace and injustices.
    More parents should do the same, by taking their children to Palestine to experience the realities.
    Let us all work to make the world a better place to live in, as it was before 1979, the year when USSR Russia invaded Afghanistan, and then the seeds of Jihad was sown in Afghanistan and part of Pakistan. The word Jihad was extensively used then to incite uneducated but simple Afghans to fight the Russians. And then the resultant was OBL, AlQaida, Taliban, suicide bombings, extremist, fundamentalists, radicalism has been the studded stones. The Afghanistan invasion, the Iraq invasion
    Who is responsible for all these chaos, millions of death, sufferings, someone has to take up the blame and say enough is enough, let us all be humans again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agree! You are one amazing mother and brave human being..these children are so blessed to have a mother like you and they must be so proud of you! The world is blessed to have children like yours in it to bring us all a better future. God bless you!

      Like

    • For human beings to be ethical they need to stand with the oppressed. For Jews to be ethical, we need to stand in solidarity against the injustices and crimes being committed by some Jewish people in the name of all Jewish people.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for adding your love and heart of justice to world. Just so glad that you are on this planet, and that your children will be here with mine, as we all continue to call for peace.

    Like

  3. You have done what I have sought to do my whole life. To not only think empathetically but to live empathetically. You have blessed your children with the most powerful of life lessons, of the most difficult and important to attain. Understanding & empathy is the key to peace. I will be sure to use this compelling example and re-live it with my own family and in the near future children.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great job and comendable. This is the way to begin an end to such atrocities against mankind – what better way then to teach your children – the future. Hopefully they will bring a positive change!!!!!amen

    Liked by 1 person

  5. (I am not sure why my comment is still awaiting moderation?)
    Empathy is so important – and so is discussing how poor conditions have developed and how they can begin to be corrected. Did you discuss solutions for ending how the elected government, Hamas, advocates the murder of civilians, so that Israel no longer has to protect its civilians from terrorism, and Israelis and Palestinians can finally work together in creating a peaceful, thriving society? There are so many questions we need answered to end the suffering on both sides, with no further loss of civilian life or comfort. Please share any solutions you and your children have come up with – so that we can all start to help make them a reality.

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    • The problem is not “suffering on both sides” as Palestinians live under occupation and Israel is an occupying power (as defined by by international law) using one of the largest strongest regimes in the world, funded by the U.S. While individual acts of violence against civilians are of course tragic and horrible, we recognize that the root cause of the violence is the occupation of Palestine and Israel’s systematic and institutional violations on Palestinian human rights. As American Jews, is not up my children and I to come up with “solutions” but to be in solidarity with the struggle for freedom and human rights. To that end we endorse the Palestine call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as a nonviolent movement put economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation and abide by international law and universal standards of human rights.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you for the response. However, part of empathy is looking for solutions. There is certainly suffering on both sides when civilians are deliberately placed in harms’ way – and to solve the need for “occupation,” the need for protection of that country’s own civilians must be met. How is this possible with a Palestinian government that condones, rather than condemns, such attacks against civilians? How can the Palestinian people break this cycle of violence so that they no longer need to be “occupied” for Israeli citizens to be protected from government-approved terror attacks? Part of empathy is, in fact, working to understand how poor conditions came to be and what can be done to work to solve them. Obviously no sides can be blameless when any civilian lives are lost or harmed. However, to claim that there is no suffering when civilians, even of an “occupying” country, are targeted in terror attacks is at best misguided. Even when Israel completely withdrew, attacks on civilians not only continued, but worsened. Empathy is so necessary, but criticism, even when called empathy, is rather hollow without attempts to consider what can be suggested to turn around and improve unacceptable conditions. As Jews, we need to question all sides. Ignoring issues like these do not properly address or account for the conflicting problems that you have not acknowledged. You seem like a wonderful mother and to be teaching your children important lessons of connecting with the real people affected by what we hear about in the news. I just hope that you also foster discussions of how these “regular people” on both sides can work to bring about positive change.

        Like

  6. Madame, you have done an incredible job. Empathy is a rarity these days, in every corner of the world. Raising your children with this trait, allowing them to see the other side of the wall is a courageous act. Whatever opposition you may face, please bear in mind the countless people that are & will be supportive of you throughout the journey.

    Best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Lauryn –

    Thanks for your posts here – they certainly have got me thinking!
    You write, “Did you discuss solutions for ending how the elected government, Hamas, advocates the murder of civilians, so that Israel no longer has to protect its civilians from terrorism, and Israelis and Palestinians can finally work together in creating a peaceful, thriving society?”. Is this something you discuss with your children? What solutions do you derive?

    For many years before 1988 (which is when Hamas came about), the Palestinians have sought solutions that do not advocate the murder of Israeli civilians, to little avail. I reckon that we can all agree that the problem is difficult and there is no easy solution!

    arielgold19 offers just one piece of the jigsaw, and IMHO offers something that is valuable and beautiful. It speaks to our hearts and reminds us of something we forget in the difficulties. Generally speaking, it is best not to assail one piece of the jigsaw with the problems from the rest of the organism until that one piece has taken root, grown strong, matured. First, let compassion, empathy and love take root and grow, and lets see what solutions come forth from that naturally. Indeed you wrote, “However, part of empathy is looking for solutions”, and I politely disagree. Solutions may well come from empathy but for as long as we are “looking” for them, we may fall foul of coming from our “position”, or from fear – and we can find ourselves divorced from empathy after all.

    Regards, Joyaa

    Liked by 1 person

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