Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When Your Child is Scared

There are few more debilitating days in a parents lives than those that happen when your child is sick or scared (or both). I have been blessed, so so very blessed, with healthy and strong children. Other than the normal childhood illnesses, I have, with such gratitude to Hashem (God) been spared and pray with all that is inside me to continue to be.

But I've had to deal with children who are scared, children who are upset, saddened, even verging on devastated. Last night, Aliza was somewhere between scared and upset, a little bit sad but nowhere near devastated.

This year, for a variety of reasons (mostly negative ones related to her previous school), we decided that Aliza would switch schools. After the cold relationship she had with teachers and the administration, she was looking for exactly what the school here told us they could not and would not provide - a warm, caring environment where the measure of a student was not solely based on grades and performance but the nature and caring of the child.

She found this warm place in a school that requires almost a two hour commute and so for the first time in her life, she lives four nights a week away from home. As an example of the warmth of the school, Aliza's friend didn't feeling like taking part in a required school activity and unfortunately didn't let the school know. The school decided to punish Aliza's friend (and a few other girls) by requiring them to stay late. So when other girls would leave and head home for the weekend at 5:00 p.m., the friend and a few others would be required to stay until 7:00 p.m.

This is a standard and acceptable punishment - except not now and not there. The school where Aliza goes is in Kiryat Arba - bordering...and I mean BORDERING...on Hebron, one of the most violent and hate-filled Palestinian cities. Israeli cars are regularly stoned on the roads around Hebron, and a few days ago, an Islamic religious leader in Hebron called on the Arabs to commit more suicide attacks.

The buses that go in, through, and out of Kiryat Arba are bullet-proof and so relatively safe for the passengers. But to send two 15 year old girls home alone at that hour from that place was not reasonable. Two...because Aliza refused to come home without her friend, even though the thought of coming home at that hour frightened her.

Despite her wanting me not to, I called the school and explained in my less-than-eloquent Hebrew that while I do not oppose them handing out punishments, this one was too much, given the circumstances. And I explained that I was calling not because the one being punished was my daughter, but because ultimately, my daughter would not leave her friend.

The school rescinded the punishment immediately, promising to speak to Aliza's friend on Sunday, and lavishly praised Aliza for being such a caring friend, a true friend - and, said the woman on the phone, that's more important than anything else. I really love the values of this new school.

So, we balance the wonder of the school with the issue of where it is located. So far, Aliza has been coping very well with the distance, the trip, etc. and has made many new friends. She likes her teachers and more importantly, for the first time in years, she feels that the teachers and the administration like and care about her.

Last night, close to 10:00 p.m., she called me on the phone. We often speak at night, so the hour didn't concern me. But she asked me if I had heard any news. She asked me to open my computer and check.

She had heard gunfire and perhaps the sound of explosives and she didn't know what was happening. Sure enough, there it was - two Arabs had tried to stab soldiers nearby and were both neutralized. I have come to love that word "neutralized." Murdering is what they have been doing; killing brings sympathy. But neutralized is great because we know it as a word that mean removing a threat - neutralizing the danger. You don't neutralize something good.

She also told me that the dorms were quiet and sad because some of her new friends knew the man that was killed earlier in the day. His car had been hit by stones and for some reason, he stopped the car and seems to have exited the car. He was run over by an Arab driver - the Israeli security forces are investigating but are stuck because the driver is being protected by the Palestinian Authority, which refuses to cooperate with Israel.

Aliza's friends know this man as a neighbor and friend of their families and so it was a sad day yesterday and a scary one for my daughter.

It isn't easy when your children are sad or frightened. It's even harder when they are far away and you can't comfort them with a hug as you once did when they were little.

All you can hope is that today will be a better day for her, her friends, the community and school that has been so nice to her, and for all of Israel.

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