Only Love Can Do That

There is a certain irony to the fact that the very first fire to break out when the high winds began was at the Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam – the only place in Israel where Jews and Palestinians live together in an intentionally shared community

When our 5th/6th grade teacher asked the students to rewrite Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote that “Hate cannot drive out hate – only love can do that,” one of them offered this alternative: “Fire cannot put out fire, only water can do that.”

For the past few days, countries in this region of the Middle East have experienced unusually high winds that have caused an unprecedented outbreak of fires [1]. The strong winds are coming from the east – from the desert – meaning that the air is almost completely devoid of moisture. The combination of wind, dry air, and a parched landscape still waiting for the winter rains to arrive has turned any outbreak of fire into a potential disaster, on both the environmental and humanitarian levels. Forests and houses have simply gone up in flames.

In Israel, negligence and arson have both been cited as the causes behind these fires [2]. In the current political climate, it didn’t take long for politicians to start throwing accusations in the direction of the local Palestinian population as a whole, which, helped along by the media, only added fuel to the emotional fires that have been burning out of control for quite some time. Meanwhile, on the Palestinian side, there were those who did not attempt to hide their delight at Israel’s misfortune, with some even calling on people to deliberately start more fires.  Continue reading “Only Love Can Do That”

Communities of Inclusivity

To be included –to belong–to be part of–to share life with– these are the experiences that will leave their indelible mark on the students. So it is no small thing to stop and ask ourselves: What kind of communities are we building in our schools?

The other day I tried to remember what I learned in 3rd grade, and I couldn’t think of a single thing. What I did remember, however, was how my friends and I formed a little “pack” (we called it) and did everything together – in school and out – so that I never felt friendless or alone; I remembered how my teacher would give each of us a big bear hug each morning, squeezing the living daylights out of us in an embrace we wouldn’t have exchanged for anything in the world; and I remembered how another teacher cried when the class was so out of control, we missed the siren that commemorated victims of the Holocaust (and how, for the first time, I felt the full impact of what it means to bear communal responsibility for less-than-ideal behavior). If I were to take time to think through 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, I suspect the pattern would be the same: I would remember random events involving friends, students, and teachers; I would remember that I generally enjoyed the whole experience; but I wouldn’t remember anything at all about what I learned in Math, Language Arts, or PE.

I think that, as kids, we are much more shaped by the social environment at our school than by any information we learn in class. Continue reading “Communities of Inclusivity”