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Reflections on the First Day of School in Israel

I ask my son how the first day of his elementary school (sixth grade) went. He tells me that the number of guards has been upped from two to five, and now they have metal detector wands. One of the guards, as before, carries a .38 caliber pistol. For good measure, he adds that the guard at the nearby clothing store is now carrying a G36C fully automatic Heckler & Koch. (Daniel's an expert on small arms and has a high opinion of this weapon, one of his many hobbies.)

They are not carrying this equipment because of concern over random trespassers or shoplifters. I often reflect that if terrorists were to attack the elementary school successfully, they would be regarded as heroes in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and among millions of Arabs and Muslims.

In contrast, of course, Palestinian schools, stores, and malls do not have to fear attack. On the contrary, certainly in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent on the West Bank, they are being taught in textbooks that it is proper and virtuous to slay Israelis wherever they find them. Would all this change overnight if there were an internationally recognized Palestinian state? Of course not.

And incidentally, in high school my daughter did a course on comparative religion, including a fair and accurate study of Islam. In the schooling of both children there has never been the slightest demonization of Arabs or Muslims while there has been a genuine effort to understand (without apologizing for or advocating) the viewpoint of those peoples.

Whatever the real shortcomings of the Israeli school system (don't get me started!), my son isn't subjected to the very conscious indoctrination that he faced during a stint in an American public school. (Long-time readers of my blog know the details. A personal favorite is how the math teacher used "Vote for Obama" playing cards for some math exercises.)

In both schools there is some bullying and low-level violence among students, but in the American school all of the teachers were so pious about how wonderfully tolerant everyone was that they refused to recognize it. Indeed, between all of the multicultural lessons, students were slinging racial epithets at each other to a far greater extent than when I was attending a similar public school back in the "dark ages" of supposed intolerance.

These are not "right-wing" observations but statements of fact that nowadays are understood by the great majority of left-of-center Israelis. We would all like things to be different and want to believe that the conflict can be quickly and fully settled with more concessions. But experience has taught us that it just isn't true.

In general, this is the point that the mass media in the West keeps from its readers. In 2011 the situation is not a matter of "right-wing" Israelis wanting to hold onto the West Bank forever (and it was a "right-wing" government that pulled out of the Gaza Strip and removed all of the Jewish settlements there).

It is a knowledge that more concessions will not be met by real peace based on such things as: the withdrawals from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip; the experience of the 1990s' peace process with both the Palestinian Authority and Syria; and now the undoing of the Egypt-Israel peace agreement.