Can we open the schools?

Has the imposed social isolation caused emotional damage to thousands of children who need in-person instruction and peer interaction? Op-ed

David Rubin ,

Cleaning workers disinfect the entrance to a high school in Jerusalem, June 3, 2
Cleaning workers disinfect the entrance to a high school in Jerusalem, June 3, 2
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

It has become a daily ritual. The Cabinet meets and discusses what to do with the schools. Prime Minister Netanyahu says we need to be responsible and stay locked down. There is rising morbidity in the red zones, he says, and therefore, children can’t go to schools in the green zones either, but they do so anyway in some of the most-infected red zones, with minimal enforcement.

Furthermore, Education Minister Yoav Galant, whose job it is to make sure that Israeli children are succeeding in school, has made a 180 degree change in his opinions and now says that the children will just have to stay at home “for their own safety”. Does any of this make sense?

Everyone by now understands that children are not harmed seriously by the physical impact of Covid-19, even though they do get infected and they do bring it home. Meanwhile, vaccines have been available for the public for the past two months. The Netanyahu government has been extraordinarily efficient in the distribution of those vaccines and the prime minister himself deserves a great deal of credit for that accomplishment.

That being said, if the government had made the children a greater priority, they would have enabled teaching staff of all ages to have vaccines available to them earlier in the process (the order was medical personnel and the elderly and then teachers) and the educational system might have been operating for the past few weeks of lockdown. That was not done, and we now know that the latest month-long lockdown has not helped much anyhow, even as far as reducing “the numbers." True the vaccine needs more than two months to show results, but meanwhile lockdown has destroyed businesses and livelihoods, strained marriages, created severe loneliness among singles and the elderly, and uprooted emotional stability.

There seems to be no sense of balance. Lockdown has become the new holy of holies for squabbling non-thinking politicians. Live or die for the moment to serve the immediate Health Ministry numbers, but don’t dare ask about the long-term educational and psychological damage. Is that discussed at all in the countless Cabinet meetings of the Netanyahu-Gantz disunity government? Yes, large hasidic funerals,and Arab weddings are very problematic as a severe virus spreader, but does Gantz not recognize that his own holy cow of anti-Bibi demonstrations does the same?

What about the children who can’t succeed at Zoom due to concentration issues? Are we considering the needs of those who don’t have their own computer or their own quiet space at home? What about the high school children who have to do all of their bagrut matriculation exams, with only minimal allowance for the heavy handicap that they have been placed under? How do we explain the seeming helplessness of Education Minister Galant, who seems to be in way over his head when dealing with the frustrations of children and youth, and their parents?

And then there is the psychological damage. Has the imposed social isolation caused emotional damage to thousands of children and adolescents who need in-person instruction and interaction with their peers? My organization, Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund sustains the Mifgash Therapy Center, which has seen a sharp 45% spike in serious referrals for PTSD treatments since the beginning of the lockdowns. Where is that accounted for?

The seeming insensitivity of the government and its statistics-focused cohorts to the plight of Israel’s children and parents has demanded a response for too long. The people of Israel are ready to explode from the extensive lockdowns and the recent threats of rebellion from the long-suffering small business owners, many of whom have been forced to permanently shut down, are only the tip of the iceberg.

Israelis are a caring, passionate people, but caring starts with the family. If we as a society don’t start making the children’s education and emotional well-being a top priority, we will all pay the price in the years to come. To the politicians: It’s not a cynical game of statistics. Find the way to let the children return to school safely!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh Israel, is the author of the book, “Trump and the Jews” and five other books. Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack. He can be found at www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or at www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org



top