By Leah Garber
“He who cares for days sows wheat; he who cares for years plants trees; he who cares for generations educates people.”
—commonly attributed to Janusz Korczak
Education, like the air we breathe and the water we drink, is essential to our existence as human beings and people of culture, morals, and values. It is what sets us apart from other living beings.
The roots of a moral society are sown in the worldview we instill in our children from infancy. Ethics, compassion, and the sanctity of life are fundamental components of mothers’ milk, and the building blocks of a better tomorrow are in the values-based education we impart to our young people today.
As is commonly known in Israel, the education system in Gaza has, for years, prompted toxic incitement directed at Israel, at Jews, and at Western culture in general. Formal education is reinforced in summer camps run by Hamas, which foster a violent culture of hatred that has children participate in combat training while they are poisonously brainwashed.
In Gazan mosques, boys are taught that their role in the world is to become martyrs, and to get used to this destiny, they “practice death.” The young boys are brought to cemeteries, where they are required to lie in open graves to “get used to” the feeling of the dead, which is their aspiration—hoping to die as martyrs while killing as many Jews as possible.
This tragic norm that sanctifies death and brainwashes children’s minds with hatred of Zionism and Western culture leads to generations of teenagers who are expected to fulfill their destiny to fight the Zionist entity in all ways.
The olive branch, which symbolizes peace is engraved on the United Nations’ flag, an appropriate emblem for an organization that promotes worldwide peace and brotherhood. How can it be, then, that study materials distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) include textbooks that glorify terrorism and erase Israel from maps?
Gaza’s students are asked to “protect the homeland with blood,” in materials that present terrorists as role models, while Israel is accused of trying to set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and poison all Palestinians. In one textbook, students are asked to solve word problems in which the number sought is this: What is the correct number of martyrs who were killed? In another, vocabulary exercise emphasizes the “smell of the mask (perfume) coming from martyrs.” In classrooms, teachers spread blood plots, such as one claiming that Israel deliberately dumps disease-causing radioactive waste on Palestinian lands. What’s more, in most educational materials in Gaza, Israel is accused of systematically plotting against Palestinians, and in many others, Israel is entirely erased from maps that label the land as “Greater Palestine.”
Perhaps this educational system helps explain how Hamas terrorists hide weapons in their own homes, even under the belongings of their innocent children, as we saw in shocking images released a few days ago that included 100 pounds of explosives under a child’s bed and weapons buried between toys in a Gazan home. An image today showed one of Hamas’s largest long-range missile warehouses—located right next to a school courtyard.
Is it any wonder, then, that the children of Gaza grow up to hate Jews and see them as bloodthirsty murderers, becoming second-, third-, and fourth-generation terrorists? Is this how terrorists justified burning children alive? Can this toxic brainwashing explain this and the other horrifically cruel acts they carried out on October 7? After all, if it makes sense to teach your children to murder as many Jews as possible in pursuit of martyrdom, isn’t torturing the enemy’s children with appalling cruelty the other half of the same equation?
In Israel, we have a saying: “Life and death in the hand of the tongue.” Stated another way—words matter, textbooks matter, teachers’ messages matter.
Among the chilling testimonies revealed after the massacre is a recording of a phone conversation between a Hamas terrorist and his parents. His hands still soaked in blood, he shares with great excitement that he had just killed 10 Jews, including small children, with his own hands. The terrorist’s father can be heard praising his son and telling him how proud he is, while his mother shouts “Kill! Kill! Kill!” in the background.
The destructive propaganda system, which leaves no room for hope that the next generation will be better than the current one, extends beyond Gaza’s borders, even into the heart of modern Western society, the same society the Hamas terrorists preach that they hate.
Even if you don’t dwell on videos and links I have been sharing, I urge you to listen to this special U.S. congressional hearing held yesterday at which presidents of leading universities testified. Please, take a moment to listen.
I wonder if the leaders of these prestigious universities would have given the same twisted responses to calls for genocide against other minority groups in the name of “freedom of speech.” Probably not.
Why are we surprised by the distorted texts that have been taught in Gaza for years if magnificent educational institutions that have taught generations in the heart of the free, enlightened world can have leaders who do not think a call for genocide violates their institution’s codes of conduct? I listened to this hearing several times, and each time a terrible shudder gripped me. I have no words, wonder if there is any hope, and dare not imagine the future that awaits us.
Janusz Korczak, a great educator, went into the jaws of death with the orphaned children he taught, but he left behind an immortal educational legacy that still inspires educators all over the world.
If Korczak were alive today, he would surely beg us to continue and not give up. Education is a tiresome endeavor that never ends. If our world is to be a better place for all, there is still so much to be corrected, to be repaired.
Until then, we, all of us, must strive to do everything in our power to ensure a different future for our children. It is a future in which, perhaps one day, the children of Israel and the children of Gaza together will solve math problems that ask how many seeds are needed to grow a fruitful crop, how many gallons are needed to water fertile soil, how many hands are needed to pick its grain, and how many holiday meals can be made from its fruits.
Together, united, we will overcome.