I was getting into the car after picking my daughter up from day camp at the Jewish school that she attends when I got a text from my husband. "They found the kid's bodies," was all it said. My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears. I knew, of course, that he was speaking of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, the three Israeli boys who had been kidnapped a short while ago. I use the word boys, not men, because that's exactly what they were. Boys. Innocent boys who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As a Jewish woman married to an Israeli man, it hurts my heart to think that these boys were brutally murdered solely based on the fact that they were Jewish, living in the land that our shared ancestors have been fighting for over thousands of years for. As an American, I can't even begin to fathom what it must be like to constantly worry if my family or I will be in the wrong place at the wrong time, considering freedom is an inherent right in this country that we take for granted. But as a mother, I am sick to my stomach for the families of these boys. Their parents didn't make the choice to put their children in harm's way, they simply chose to give them as much of a normal life as their country would allow. I imagine it's the same way we send our kids out into the world with full trust that they will be exactly where they are supposed to be when we are ready to retrieve them. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world has this same luxury.
My mind immediately began to race. What can I possibly do to help? Sure, I can post a Facebook status to express my condolences, I can check in with my husband's side of the family that lives in Israel to see how they are handling it, but what will that really do?
Not a whole lot.
I am not naive enough to think that our actions need to be as big and bold as our intentions. I know that sometimes it is the small things that truly can make a difference.
So what can I do? What can we do? The mom in me desperately wants to shelter my almost 2-year-old daughter from ever learning of such tragedy in the world, but the educator in me knows the power and importance of teaching tolerance. When horrific things happen in the world, they absolutely need to be discussed and debriefed so that our kids can start to understand what happens when tolerance is ignored. While it seems natural to want to protect our children from the news, we must open their eyes and allow them to see what the seeds of hate can grow. We can explain to them that even though it may be fun to tease on the playground, or poke fun at the student struggling in school, or laugh at someone's differences, it is those little actions that grow up into larger actions such as the murder of three innocent kids based on their religious beliefs. Extreme? Maybe. But think about it, if we can urge our kids to love and accept others for who they are, the future just might be a bit brighter. If we can encourage them to celebrate differences, rather than belittle them, the world might become a better place.
It may not solve the crisis in the Middle East, and it may not put an end to war, but if we can raise a generation of more tolerant and accepting humans, it certainly is a step in the right direction.
And that's a step I want my daughter to be able to confidently take.
In the meantime, my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to Israel in this time of mourning.
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