Not kidding. According to Haaretz, the Education Ministry has found a particularly macabre way of imbibing our young ones with respect for their heritage: Each junior high to high school students will adopt “a memorial or the tomb of a soldier fallen in the War of Independence.” They will be tasked with keeping the tombs clean, and will have to write a report about the dead person or persons buried under or commemorated by their pet cenotaph as part of their matriculation exam.
I’m sorry, I have every respect for families who lost their loved ones to the conflict, but it’s extremely difficult to write about this initiative with a straight face. One can only imagine the dialogs: “Mom, can I have a dog?” “No, sonny’ it’s too alive. Here’s a tomb.”
On a more sombre note, this is seriously perverse. Personally, I don’t believe in the afterlife and think tombs and memorials exist primarily for the benefit of the living relatives and loved ones of the deceased; if all of these have overcome their grief, or, in likelier case when fallen of the War of 1948 are concerned, passed away, then let the fallen soldier lie. Upkeep is important, sure, but if the state wishes to preserve its memorials, let it cough up some cash and hire cleaners and restorationists. Using school students for this task is unpaid child labor. Much more worryingly, manipulating them to develop feelings of bereavement toward people they’re unrelated to and never knew amounts, frankly, to abuse. It’s as if the Education Ministry decided that it’s unfair some families haven’t lost loved ones in Israel’s many wars, and generously decided to provide each family still unscathed with a corpse to mourn and a loss to cope with.
But hey, so long as we don’t have a cult of death here in Israel.