ELKAN’S VIEW 8th July 2015
Towards the end of last week the Chofesh Hagadol, the great long summer holidays, began in Israeli schools, and with the majority of parents working, a whole industry of Kaytanot, summer schemes or “camps” as they are often called, has begun. Many of these will take place in the same buildings as the pupils go to school anyway, so they have the strange experience of going back to school to do totally non-school things with totally non-school discipline!
Not that discipline is particularly obvious in Israeli schools at the best of times. To those of us brought up in the UK in older and more ordered times, the idea that all the pupils from the first form upwards call their teachers by their first names is extremely strange until you get used to it, and begin to understand that the educational results are extremely good nonetheless.
My grandchildren have been involved in a wide range of things these holidays, ranging from computer courses to intensive chess playing and instruction, while the youngest one who is football mad trains at the practice ground of the Hapoel Tel Aviv club.
Grandparents are involved as well and I expect to have the chance to spend quality time with them and go out for (exhausting) days which is not possible in a system where children go to school six days a week as they do in Israel.
Israel cherishes its children and has quite a high birth rate among both the Arabs and the Charedim, although other sections of society are not backward in this either. There was much comment recently at the suggestion that the world Jewish population has now climbed back almost to where it was before the Holocaust. This is both heartening and sobering; sobering because it has taken us 70 years to repair the damage, and heartening because “Am Yisrael Chai – the People of Israel lives”. Whatever the political problems in the Middle East, no one in Israel is downhearted. The country was recently reckoned to be the fifth happiest place to live in the world and being here is a daily honour and privilege.