For the last year, my wife and I have been trying to paint Israel in a wonderful light for our children. After all, we are moving there this upcoming summer for roughly a year and we want our kids to be excited. At the same time, I have tried to temper my daughter’s belief in Israel flowing with “milk and honey” (she learned that at preschool) with some doses of reality. I do not want my kids to only love Israel in a religious sense. I want them to love Israel as a fun, modern, thriving place for Jews to live.
I tell my kids all of the advantages of Israel such as how the fast food restaurants in Israel are kosher (mostly true). I tell my daughter that she can be the Prime Minister of Israel since Israel’s already had a female leader (mostly my dream, not hers). I tell them how fun it is to go camping in Israel (I assume we could go camping here in LA, but I never have). And yet I always fear that they don’t understand the wonderful opportunity they are receiving by spending a year in Israel.
I try to force Hebrew on them whenever I can. I try to teach a few words at a time. When they ask for something, I try to make them say the Hebrew word for it. I’m pretty sure these “Hebrew lessons” are not as effective as much they are irritating for them.
Like so many other questions my wife and I have encountered in parenting, our children show us the way. Recently, I was flipping through Disney YouTube videos and my daughter asked to see “Toy Story” in Hebrew. Without thinking much of it, I clicked the link (you can find it below).
My kids both watched the screen with awe (“Toy Story” is my son’s favorite movie). There was connection, wonder, pride—Everything I had tried to force on them, they simply found in the Hebrew dubbing of the song “You Got A Friend In Me.” Israel no longer seemed distant to them. If they had Buzz Lightyear, it must be a great place. If Woody spoke Hebrew, then Hebrew must be worth learning. Simply put, the song made sense to them just as much in Hebrew as it does in English.
That video led to Princess videos of “Tangled”, “Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast”. After waiting patiently, my son demanded we watch “Toy Story” five more times. It was a YouTube frenzy. It was a miraculous spark without any planning. After watching all of the YouTube videos, my daughter turned to me and said “It’s so awesome.”
I smiled. She was right. It is so awesome.
It’s awesome that they will learn to speak the same language as their cousins in Israel. It’s so awesome that the language of Ancient Israel is once again alive and well. It’s the Lashon Kodesh, the Holy Language, of Torah and wisdom and Israel and freedom… and Woody and Buzz. The State of Israel and Hebrew should thrive forever and ever – To infinity and beyond!