The Writing on the Wall

This month we observed the twelfth anniversary of Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination. Before the assassination, Israel was being pulled apart. While Rabin sought to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, he was called a traitor to the Jewish people in demonstrations which were being held with increasing frequency and intensity. Protesters held up inflammatory placards with Rabin’s image dressed as a Nazi. The animosity of the Right in Israel was focused on the Prime Minister. Tempers ran high around the emotional issue of withdrawing from people’s homes in exchange for promises of peace from Palestinian leaders who were once considered terrorists by the international community. The incitement these rallies created legitimized hate focused on one man. Banners hung and graffiti was scrawled with messages of this hate. The writing was on the wall.

In Israel, we were unaware of signs that later become obvious warnings of what was to have transpired. Sometimes it is very hard to see these signs although they are right in front of our eyes.

My children repeatedly tell me that they would like more time with me. I am sure it is something many parents hear. I remember saying the same thing to my mother who, at times, worked more than one job. My children’s teachers and other childcare professionals have told me that it would make a large impact on my boys if I could spend one half-hour a week with each of them individually, giving them one-on-one time – what our family calls “Special Time.”

It is not that I do not spend time with my boys. However, the quality, one-on-one time during the work week is a very rare commodity.

In the mornings I take the older children to school and some evenings, I help them with homework and read to them. We usually have dinner together and then I tuck them in.

Shabbat, for me, is what Abraham Joshua Heschel called “an island in time” when I dedicate my time to what is truly important. We spend that time as a family having meals together, going to synagogue, visiting the park and playing games. But beyond Shabbat, there does not seem to be time for me to spend “special time” individually with each of my children.

While I only work minutes away from home, other things always seem to take priority, taking up my day and theirs. I have work that needs to be done, a meeting I have to attend, a phone call I have to return. They have school and after-school activities, youth groups, play-dates and private English lessons.

Each day passes and more opportunities to enjoy each other’s company are missed.

Walking to school in the morning, we pass teachers who are demonstrating. They hold signs protesting the size of classes and the manner in which teachers are under-appreciated. For over a month, middle and high-school teachers have been on strike in Israel. Class sizes in Israel average just under 40 students and it has been reported that teachers’ wages in Israel are the lowest in the industrialized world.

The effects of this have seen a decline in the celebrated position Israeli students once held at the academic forefront of the world. It was in no small measure that Israel’s previous academic position had helped Israel become a leader in the high-tech industry, in medical research and in other fields.

However there always seems to be a more urgent crisis than our children. The government allocates funds to defense or to health or to infrastructure. There will be another budgetary year to allocate funds to education, another evening to spend quality time with my sons or another day to take off an hour from work to play ball. Like most adults, I accept this cyclical pattern of normalcy. The class sizes increase, the meetings pile up and the responsibilities I feel to others tire me out, pulling me in too many directions.

The teachers have had enough. They have called a strike calling attention to what everybody knows: We are not allocating enough resources to what is truly important. Decisions are made by route or from crisis to crisis without making conscious decisions according to our overall priorities. This continues until it becomes a crisis that we are forced to deal with – or our life passes us by and before we know it, we have missed the precious opportunities life has to offer.

While I go to work to pay the bills so my kids can live well, they miss me and I am missing them. It should not take a crisis for me to realize the obvious and for me to act upon it. I can already see the writing on the wall.

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