Walking distance from the Hudson River on West 61st street adjacent to the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan is a High School that ranks in the top third of High Schools in New York City. It prides itself with one of the highest English proficiency scores in the city. Earlier this month, this school made news for an entirely different reason. Students at that elite High School were asked to pause from their studies to pay tribute to victims of violence in Gaza, when scores of Palestinians (males typically between the ages of 17-27) lost their lives while protesting against Israel. The name of that educational facility is the Beacon School.
I can’t speak for other Jewish leaders, but I’m done talking. I have better things to do than to argue the position of Israel. Besides, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that facts and truths are meaningless to those who are intent on “feeling the pain, anguish and humiliation” of fellow human beings – provided of course those fellow human beings are Palestinians. Instead of talking, I would like to pose three questions to the powers that be at that institution for higher education as well as similar schools that are foolish enough to venture into an area they seem to know nothing about, only to exacerbate their ignorance by making a political statement.
Is concern for victims of violence at the Beacon School limited to Palestinians “suffering” at the hands of Israelis? If not, shouldn’t students have been asked to pause from their studies to pay tribute to Palestinians who have been victimized by Christians? Back in April, two large-scale riots took place in Hamborn district of Duisburg, a small town some 50-minute ride from the north-western German city of Cologne. The Hamborn district of Duisburg is on the cross-hairs of Turkish and Lebanese gangster clans that are demarcating territory in the northern part of the city. Did the powers that be at the Beacon School, ask the students to respond to the mayhem that occurred back in April?
Does the Beacon School offer scholarships so that students can spend their summers at the Jalazun Refugee Camp (or other similar Refugee Camps), not far from Ramallah? As respectful as a moment of silence may be, surely it pales in comparison to a summer of assistance. That way, students at the Beacon School could speak about their experiences and gain firsthand knowledge of the plight of the Palestinians. Isn’t speaking out far more important than a moment of silence? It seems to me that moments of silence are quickly forgotten. Summers of assisting will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on these students for the rest of their lives! Doesn’t true and honest concern warrant the latter course of action?
Are there moments of silence for students at the Beacon School to observe when a family or families in any one of the five boroughs of the city succumb to an apartment fire caused by faulty wiring or a gas leak? If charity begins at home, shouldn’t sympathy also begin at home? In addition to moments of silence, are there also moments of letter writing by students at the Beacon School for family members who have survived the tragedy? Are there also moments of silence at the Beacon School for students to put together baskets of toys and plush animals for children who have become orphaned by such fires?
Once upon a time, I too was a High School student. I therefore feel that it is fair to say that quite often moments of silence in school fall on deaf ears. Selective moments of silence in school on the other hand, make loud and bold statements, where discerning students immediately see through the motives or lack thereof of educators and administrators, leading them to question and challenge genuineness and sincerity of teachers and school officials alike.