Struck by the difference

Maroon uniforms sprinkled on a field dotted by azure-clad flag team dancers. The image on Facebook, posted a week ago, tugged at my heart-strings. Rancho Buena Vista High School, Vista, California, the school I used to lead as a pricipal, hosted its annual band tournament. The image evoked festive VIP meals under a white tent, cool evenings on hard bleachers, sometimes rainy hours under the shelter of an umbrella, high school students by the hundreds, producing music and performing dances that narrate unique, interpretive stories. I used to look forward to the awards ceremony with its displays of creative curtsy routines, delivered by each team to our amusement. I was even fortunate to present the Best-of-Show trophy on more than one occasion. The band tournament in a large comprehensive southern California high school is always a joyous, multi-faceted celebration of creative artistry designed by scores of dedicated educators, performed by hundreds of talented students, and enjoyed by thousands of enthusiastic parents.

Today a different Facebook posting surfaced on my timeline. It too was posted by an educator, a close friend I have known since my late teens, when we were both drafted by the Israel Defence Forces. Today’s post depicted high school students as well, hundreds of them, taking active role in an Israeli high school commemoration of an event that took place exactly twenty years ago — the murder of the then prime minister of Israel, Itzhak Rabin. A tragedy perpetrated by a Jewish terrorist twenty years ago is particularly poignant in today’s Israel, when Arab terror by stoning, stabbing, car ramming, and shooting is a daily public occurence. The students were reading reflections, performing sketches and singing songs. The large poster behind them, stained with a blotch of crimson, decried violence. While they live with ongoing physical danger and loss, these students and their teachers were attempting to make sense of violence that stunned their nation two decades ago.

I was struck by the difference. How fortunate are we here in the United States to mentor our youngsters in a celebration of musical production and dance expressed in a spirit of friendly competition. How lucky are we to luxuriate in this creative display. How sobering must be the Israeli gathering at the gym that looks like any American high school gym. However, in this gym a large poster announces with large black lettering an immense decades-old challenge — violence. And those in attendance strive to generate a nurturing community as they struggle to comprehend man’s inhuamity to man.

I can’t help but mourn my conclusion that the teenagers in the Israeli gym have grown much older than those fortunate youngsters attending the band tournament.