Welcome Kita Aleph (First Graders)!
This is the phrase with which all first graders are welcomed to their new schools in Israel this morning, with beautiful and moving ceremonies to help make them feel comfortable.
Today, the 1st of September, is the first day of school nationwide in Israel, with 2 million children (the numbers astound me!) returning to their classrooms. Every year the excitement in the air is palpable. The parents are both happy for their children at starting a new stage in life or moving up the ladder of their education, plus of course they’re heaving a huge sigh of relief that the seemingly never-ending summer 2 month long summer holiday is over. The children are excited for similar reasons, and it is a heart-warming sight to see hundreds and thousands of youngsters proudly holding their new schoolbags, comparing notebooks and pencils with their friends.
Is there another country out there where parents are expected to take the day off to accompany their children to school? Even IDF career soldiers (like a member of my family) do so!
Traditionally, yeshivot (Rabbinical academies and seminaries) open on the 1st day of Elul. This year the days more or less coincided (with one day in between) which means that children and students from all streams of the Jewish religious spectrum started school at the same time.
Even more interesting – this year is the first year that there hasn’t been a teachers’ strike, or the threat of one, hanging over the start of the school year. Of course there are the usual controversies (how could it be otherwise?)
Even in the south of the country, where there is the ever-present threat of missile and rocket fire, G-d forbid, the school year has started on time despite the fact that not all schools have been fortified against missiles.
Of course, the very fact that Israel has to fortify its schools and kindergartens against Palestinian missiles, together with the racism and antisemitism that is taught to Palestinian children, says everything that needs to be said about the Middle East.
I wish all our children and grandchildren a safe happy, successful and educational year!