Back to school, Israeli-style

Teachers, students and parents take a deep breath as schools across Israel start today.

Buying school bags in preparation for the first day of school. Photo by Flash90.

Buying school bags in preparation for the first day of school. Photo by Flash90.

When we told our youngest son that he’d be going to his new preschool class today, he said: “No I’m not. Just SMS my teacher and tell her who I am.”

And so begins another school year.

More than 4,500 Israeli schools opened doors today (August 27) to 2.13 million schoolchildren and some 145,000 teachers, principals and other education personnel.

The new school year, and the end of summer vacation, may start a couple of weeks earlier in Israel than in North America or Europe but the feelings amongst teachers, students and parents are the same.

My social-media networks have been inundated with funny cartoons skewering the apprehension and familiar routine now beginning.

A Terry Wise comic from 2012 was translated by someone into Hebrew and is currently a popular share in my circles. Here is the original, in English.

Terry Wise comic

Another popular cartoon this year shows a teacher having to deal with her biggest problem of all – parents. Although in Hebrew, the universal message of a teacher’s patience is perfectly summed up in this video:

My youngest son’s teacher was bubbly beyond belief when we arrived at preschool this morning. Contrary to his desires, our boy was one of the 290,000 children to begin the new year in government-funded preschools – and was even given a cutout of a right foot to color in, so that we’d start correctly.

Like a ping-pong ball, we bounced around the classroom checking out the library corner, coloring area, bathrooms, play doctor area, clay play table, and outdoor courtyard. All that in about two minutes!

There was euphoria among the parents and teachers, while the kids exhibited a mix of enthusiasm and alarm.

And while first day of preschool is exciting, anticipation was even greater as we joined the other parents of the 149,000 children beginning first grade this year. Our daughter and son proudly donned their “Kita Alef (first grade)” T-shirts and set off to the school’s welcoming ceremony with opposite mind-sets. Our daughter smiled from ear to ear; our son – who woke up every hour on the hour throughout the night — asked us how many minutes (!!) he would be at school today!

This touching video, set to Israeli singer Sarit Haddad’s song, seems to be the most popular for parents of first-graders:

And though hype of a new school year is at its peak, in Israel, the Jewish New Year and High Holidays make the transition from summer break a bit confusing. Schoolchildren will actually spend most of the month on vacation. And my boys are very happy with that.

About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.