Tuesday, January 21, 2014

With Good Will Toward All

Within the Israeli "public" school system, there are three major streams:  Secular, Religious Zionist and Ultra-orthodox.  There also exists another option, a classroom in which children with special needs or learning issues are integrated into the mainstream.  A close friend of mine has sent all three of her children to these integrated schools, and has never regretted her decision.

Since Raphaela was old enough to walk through the streets of Jerusalem with me, she has frequently and not so tactfully pointed to pedestrians in wheel chairs, with crutches or with obvious physical deformities.  Children speak straight and ask exactly what they are thinking, and I would explain to her that these people are like anyone else, except sometimes they need help walking or doing errands.

If we pass by another Jerusalemite, we will both smile and say, "Good morning," a non-judgmental acknowledgement of their being.  I have never used derogatory terms to describe someone with a physical or mental handicap, and have tried to teach Raphaela that each person deserves respect.

This week Raphaela had a personal encounter with another child with severe ADHD; though this child was clearly attempting to show my daughter affection and get her attention, it expressed itself as aggressive and uncontrolled violent behavior.

As Raphaela has a particular sensitivity regarding bullying, she at first became quite angry and defensive.  "That's not good deeds!" she yelled at him in Hebrew.

So I explained to her that she mustn't think this boy to be mean, but rather that he cannot control himself  and that he was just trying to make friends with her.  Amazingly, her demeanor changed almost immediately, switching from angry and ranting, to compassionate.  "Poor boy," she said, "I hope that he feels better soon."

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