December 22, 2011
Opinion: Good writing counts
(Page 3 - Previous Page)
Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy
Making a Difference
“Nathan, you’ve got a letter!” I had eaten my breakfast, brushed my teeth and was about ready to leave for school when my mother became excited. I sprang from my chair and raced to the living room.
“Is it what I think it is?” I ripped open the envelope boldly imprinted with Mr. Nathan Bentolila. I had tried to be patient for the ten days I counted since I opened the blue door on the corner mailbox. My eyes popped out of my head when I realized that Robert Kohan, Senior Editor of Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, had replied to my urgent request.
Perhaps I should explain. Two years ago, at the beginning of 6th grade, my history teacher handed me Ancient Civilizations. Unlike your average 6th grader, I happen to love history, so I decided to skim through the book. Two facing paged titled “Links Across Time” caught my attention. The page on the right showed a picture of the modern Olympics next to a historical painting of Greek Olympians. I glanced at the preceding page, which showed a photograph of two Israeli Army jeeps in a conflict; this was radically different from any other image in the text. What was the picture doing in my book? I read the caption: “fighting today between Palestinians and Israelis….” I was horrified. The more I read, the more I knew that this picture was not supposed to be in any textbook. The description continued, “one of the fiercest and longest conflicts.” I was bewildered since this was actually a pretty modern conflict considered to be forty-five years old by some and one hundred years at most by others. Were millions of 6th graders and teachers across America reading and believing the words? Didn’t anyone notice this bias against Israel? I showed my parents, and they told me to look for other references or pictures of modern conflicts. I found none. My discomfort increased, and my questions intensified. The Arab-Israeli conflict was the only modern conflict referred to in the entire book.
My parents encouraged me to explore this further. After four months of searching the Internet and consulting experts on the subject, my research showed that there were over seventy conflicts going on worldwide. I decided to take action and write a letter for the editor asking why Israel had been singled out as the only example of conflict in today’s world. Even though I was pretty sure that one of the top educational publishing companies in the United States would certainly discard my letter, I knew I had to try. Apparently Fox News had previously tried to discuss Israel bias in the textbooks and never received a reply. So when I received an immediate response, I knew they had taken me seriously.
“Dear Nathan, We agree with your assessments and will change both photo and extended captions in further editions with something positive and unbiased.” I, an eleven-year-old passionate Zionist, had truly made a difference.