Parenting During Conflict

We Will Not Be DefeatedKids4Peace’s head parent-facilitators, Shafiq and Jill, hosted a conference call for concerned parents of Jerusalem youth to check in about their feelings and gain some advice on how to speak to youth during these tense times. Below are reflections from the four parents who spoke and shared:

Nazira, mother of Yousef, a Muslim 7th grader
Safety is a basic human right. ALL of us are feeling unsafe. Regardless who we are. It seems that what the media is showing is fueling the situation. I hear both Israeli and Palestinian media sources and the coverage of the events is entirely different, with totally opposite stories being told.

I am lost. No one knows what to believe. People are judging and reacting based on what they hear in the media. I don’t want to hear it or read anymore. Meeting together as parents is so important. But of course we must feel safe. I leave to go to work, and then just want to be indoors. How do other parents feel?”

Micol, mother of Maya, a Jewish 7th grader
“Thank you for sharing Nazira, we feel exactly the same in our household. Our daughter Maya was sharing her frustration and told me “I wish we could say that we are the good and they are the bad”, implying that she knows things are not black and white.

There’s no clarity. She would like to know who is good and who is bad, but of course it is not so simple. Very shocking events that we could never have imagined this all a week ago.

We have a lot of fear, how can we be careful? We are torn because we want to trust, but we are frightened. Should we fear the staff of cleaners at the school, drivers of the school buses, in addition to the demands of increased security patrols in schools and kindergarten? I empathize with the fears, and at the same time try to be alert, understanding how important it is not to generalize. We have to find ways to cope, it is very difficult.”

Francis, father of Mira, a Christian 8th grader

“Thank you for this conference call, because it is so important that we meet as soon as possible since we all have these fears, staying indoors will not bring us together. We have to sit together, eye to eye which is a much better way to talk. I want to share with you fear from the perspective of a Palestinian.

67 years of longing, it is hard to talk about coexistence in the absence of human rights, inequality, no economic opportunity. 30 to 40 percent of population is without work.

I could have expected this wave of violence. This is a natural outcome. We have been oppressed, there has been exclusion of our people, if you read the history books, before 1947 and the creation of the State of Israel, we were in a similar situation. The city was completely divided. Palestinians couldn’t walk into Jewish areas, similar situation with different political context. I am not scared, I don’t know why, but I would like to find an opportunity to overcome your fears. I am not scared, I am really worried.”

Shafiq, Parent facilitator and father of Bashar, a Muslim 8th grader

“I do feel fear, I am scared about my safety and my family’s, and other’s.

An example of this week when I felt fear: The other night I was walking on a very small street in West Jerusalem, it was around 9:00 in the evening, empty streets because very few are out. A man came out of nowhere, opposite side of street. We were both scared. He was Jewish. He said, Erev tov, (good evening in Hebrew), and then we both said very loudly EREV TOV together. This was a moment of relief. …reminded me of the fear that we all share.

Should we speak about being scared to our children? Our recommendation is YES, do speak openly to your children. They know what is going. This reality they see it, they hear it in our voices, and what we do, better for them to hear it in words, their feelings will be legitimized when we speak our fear. We don’t want to make them more scared, recommended to share our worries, but with messages of life goes on, and we will get over this too.”

Hagai, father of Noa, a Jewish 8th grader

“Not clear what I can say right now—On a personal  level we were very close, two days ago, to being caught in an “event” (attack) we were supposed to take a bus back home, near the central bus station, tried to make effort to avoid having our daughter there, so asked my father to help out. We were very close to the bus station when the event happened. Currently we are not in as bad situation as the other side since I witnessed this kind of situations from close. We are more effected by what we see on the news and from the general atmosphere.

It makes me very sad, makes everyone feel scared and hopeless. We at Kids4Peace, what can we do? How can we move forward? I do not know HOW we can change the situation.

I am ashamed of some things that are happening on our side but also that BOTH sides are ashamed of what is happening now.”

Micol: “My daughter wants to come to the next meeting on Thursday but wants to be able to speak frustration. Too much talk about coexistence-its not black and white, there is complexity and she wants to talk honestly about the situation.”

Shafiq adds”

“Children must be able to share feelings. We will mention this to our staff and make sure that Thursday will be honest and open. We must hear each other, and from those who don’t see reality the same way. This is very complicated.

Those who choose the simplistic ways to see events is NOT the healthy way. We belong to this community of Kids4Peace, because we see people not in black and white.

Jill and I will pass on this message, and recommend to talk to the children more about what’s going on—the confusion, anger, sadness and we can help your kids see that this is complicated not divided into two clear categories of victim and assailant. Like when two people see things differently. We try to help them think analytically, not judgmentally. This is what we hope for our children.”

Nazira: “In our home we have decided we usually watch the news on our laptops since Yousef has younger siblings. We don’t want to scare them. And Yousef asks if something happened? And I tell him, or let him hear the news with videos showed sometimes (small part of the videos). It is very challenging for us as parents.  And then we encourage him with hope, that things will be back on track soon. Thank you Dr Shafiq for your recommendation because I have not told him that I was scared. And now I hear that you suggest that we should express our fear around the children.

I remind him that Thursday, he will hopefully see his Kids4peace friends but he is very silent, turned within, reading more. He usually is much more expressive and shares his opinions. He doesn’t want to watch the news. But he hears us talking… having conversations about the reaction to the stabbings on the street.  Shouldn’t the soldiers shoot on the leg or arrest when a stabbing incident happens? Then rely on the justice system instead…

I was telling a story that he overheard, I was saying that I panic when I walk in Jerusalem because I am constantly looking in front of me and behind, you don’t know who to suspect, someone with a gun might shoot you because you are an Arab and thus you are a suspect because you are an Arab!  Or someone to stab you thinking you are a Jew….I am terrified and very scared…. I am sure every one of us is scared too…  situation is so sad… Jerusalem is sad…Yousef overheard this conversation too but he remains silent. I need to talk to him…I am not sure how. Can you advise? Thursday maybe will be better after he speaks with his friends…I am lost.

Micol: “It is very important to hear this. Fear of the children. Yes we are all afraid. For us we are afraid of being knived and not be able to defend yourself. Different fear than Nazira, in East Jerusalem. For me, soldiers/police symbolize something positive for our children. It makes us feel safe and secure. But for you Nazira, it is the opposite. Yousef and you must be afraid of the police and all of the guns. But for us Israelis that gives us security.”

Nazira: “Yes our feelings of fear are combined. For instance, the meeting on Thursday for Kids4Peace was supposed to take place in the Anglican school , I don’t know how to get there, I don’t know my way in West Jerusalem, someone might stab me and they wouldn’t know who I am—a Jew or an Arab.

How am I going to get there, I don’t know Hebrew, I would have to ask someone, and they would hear my accent, and might be scared of me and their reaction terrifies me… This will make Yousef scared as we would walk the streets towards Kids4Peace”

Micol: “I try to give my daughter a feeling that  there are adults in charge of our security and safety and they and we are doing the best in order to make us all feel safe. Just like when you cross the road, safety is key. For instance that we can not walk around with ear phones, plugged in, not paying attention. Or if there are suspicious strangers around you perhaps wanting to do something bad to you. We hope that there are standards in our society that keep order and that this is a message to pass to our kids. We don’t go out, she isn’t going out. Home is open to her friends.

On Shabbat she had an activity for the youth movement, we want them to have fun so we adults were there alert and watching out. So that we can strike that balance. We are very anxious, but we are trying to make them feel secure –we must find comfort in our routine.

Hugs are helpful when we are scared. Boys might not be able to receive them as much as girls, but it feels good. And being scared is entirely bad, it is sometimes good to feel scared because then you are more in touch with yourself and can respond.”

Francis:  “We are all overcome by our fears. How do we handle…to stay indoors? How can we find the way to change. I want to tell about our two daughters. We live in Beit hanina—two meters away from the wall. Every day they see Palestinians jumping the wall to get work. We see that often. Soldiers ambushing people, oppress them, beat them, humiliate them. That is an everyday sight. Our daughters ask us questions. School thankfully is very close so that is safe. But they ask, Why do we have a situation like this? Reality doesn’t have one face.”

Hagai: I realize the reality I live is not the same as some of you. We live just outside Jerusalem, we see it all on the television, other than like I shared with you, when we were passing by the central station and witnessed the event.

People are tired,  the country has changed over the last 20 years, what could have happened at one time in our history, counter demonstrations, going out into the streets. There was something in Tel Aviv. Not enough. I am older, and I remember during the Lebanese war there was a different feeling in the country. People made sure to raise their voices. We all came out for Tnuva and for price wars, cottage cheese. The problem is if you can’t lead such a thing, what CAN we do?? Sahnin had a well organized event. So why can’t we demonstrate for something much more important?

I wish the protest of the Palestinians would have a leader like Ghandi to lead the protest. by using non-violence. We need such a figure. Instead the fanatics are the winners. Both sides need to fight against this. But instead we are retreating into our own bubble and just waiting for it all to go away. No one is doing anything, sad. In some way it is now feels even worse to see the suffering also on the Palestinian side since I know personally the Palestinians from Kids4Peace. It is not about strangers who are there. These are people I know for 2 years already. I think the same feeling is shared by the children.

Shafiq: “Two comments to address to you as parents: Firstly to Nazira about her son Yousef disengaging from conversation. No need to pressure him. If he is detached. Allow him that. He will talk when he wants to. It is a dilemma but no need to pressure. Secondly, to Hagai’s comment about feeling helplessness, depression, …apathy, fatigue, can we influence?  We are feeling despondent. Especially in morning when we have to face the day. On the one hand it is normal that we are feeling this way.

But maybe we should ask ourselves how can we get out of this place of passivity. We each have the possibility to impact. I am not  a political leader but during the last week to ten days I have been asked to speak on the radio. 

Have your voice heard. Express your feelings. Being proactive, doing something, jumping out of passivity is helpful, and very empowering.

——-

We ended the conversation with a beautiful gesture from Francis. He ends our conversation with a very sad story. Francis has lost his work. He was involved in a project that was in Nablus and Jenin and the program has not been extended so he finds himself unemployed. In a very emotional moment, he offers to volunteer for Kids4peace at this time hoping to turn crisis into an  opportunity.

We realize the power of this conversation and how it empowers. Thanks to Shafiq’s suggestion, we all agree that these notes (after being approved by each) can be shared with our entire Kids4peace community since it is so important during these days to open up spaces even virtually to share, to hear and to listen.

We are hopeful for all of us parents, and particularly for our K4P children for Thursday to take place. A space made available for them to connect, to share and to speak honestly. Like this incredible conversation with our four parents, two mothers, Israeli and Palestinian and two fathers, Palestinian and Israeli. With four very special children between them…Noa, Yousef, Maya and Mira.

May you grow to know how special your parents are!