They surrounded me, these fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Crystal Lake Elementary School. They sat cramped together on the three carpeted steps in the corner of the school library. This must be the story telling nitch designed perhaps for one class instead of the seventy-five that faced me, anticipating my story.
I'd been invited to talk about peace, part of the school's March Peace Month. Earlier I'd heard the principal read a short story about peacemaking among animals, part of the morning announcements over the p.a.
My peace story was about my trip to Hebron in the occupied West Bank of Israel. I talked about how Israel came to be in modern history. How centuries of persecution of Jews culminated in the Holocaust (they all knew about Hitler) in which millions of Jewish people along with Slavs, gypsies, gays, communists and other minorities were slaughtered.
I read the poem "I am a star" about a little Jewish girl who survived the Holocaust. I talked about: how England, then the U.N. and U.S. helped Jewish refugees migrate to Palestine; how troubles began as the Palestinians, neighboring Arab countries and Israel warred over the same land, the same sources of water. I showed slides from my my stay in Hebron, pictures showing Israeli settlers guarded by Israeli army, shots of Palestinians harassed by Israeli settlers. I talked about outbreaks of violence from some factions from both sides, the occupiers and the occupied.
Finally I asked these children how they would make peace in Hebron. This is what they told me, word for word in the order in which the 'solutions' came:
"Move Israelis to a different place"
"Build spots where Israelis and Palestinians can live together."
"Outlaw plowing people's homes down" "Stop graffiti"
"Make sure they get a fair trial" (this from a little girl who spoke so quietly, I had to draw near to her and ask her to repeat it so I could hear)
"Police both sides"
"Send in more internationals"
"Hire friends to get more peace agreements out"
"Stricter laws that are fair"
"Go talk to people and get the military out"
"Put people in charge of each settlement so that they would not hurt anybody"
"Listen to other people's ideas"
"Send in the U.S. army to control, like in Haiti."
Return to the Index of Synapse 35, Spring Equinox 1996