In other countries, when you say “education is our future”, you usually mean that it will determine the level of prosperity and accomplishment we can hope to achieve. In Israel, the “future” is meant quite literally, in the sense that without education, we would have no future because we would all be dead.
How deep is the culture of fear in Israel? Every day seems to bring a fresh piece of evidence indicating it is quite deep indeed. Last week, I was waiting for the bus, when I saw this poster on the bus stop:
The picture, taken by me, is unfortunately not very clear. The message at the top says “Don’t leave us behind!” The bottom lines read: “Say no to the chalkboard and chalk! Because education is my future. Yours. [The future of] all of us!” The ad is attributed to “HighQ”, an Israeli corporation (with a name in English, for some reason) which specializes in preparing students for the matriculation exams and SATs. The name of the company is followed by the slogan “Presentations in class are not an extra. They are your grade!”
So far, the poster seems relatively unproblematic, if a bit short on understatement and originality. What is truly scary, quite literally, is the text at the very middle of the poster (which I managed to capture a bit more clearly):
It reads: “Yesterday, they said on the news that Israel has the most advanced missiles in the world. They said that our technological progress is the only reason we have not yet been thrown into the sea. I’m a little scared. I don’t know how to swim very well…” This text is presented as a quote attributed to “Maya, soon to be ten years old”, presumably, the girl whose picture appears next to the text.
For context, I should mention that the threat of being “thrown into the sea”, always by “Arabs”, is a very well-known catchphrase in Israel, indicating the existential threat the country presumably faces.
One could criticize this text for its poor taste and cynical tone. But what is much more worrying is that its creators clearly believe it would hit a chord. In their minds, Israelis are frightened ten-year old children, who feel on the constant brink of extinction. In other countries, when you say “education is our future”, you usually mean that it will determine the level of prosperity and accomplishment we can hope to achieve. In Israel, the “future” is meant quite literally, in the sense that without education, we would have no future because we would all be dead.
Note: unusually, this seems to be a purely off-line campaign, with no mention of it on the company’s website, or anywhere else on the internet. Presumably, it is meant to tout the company’s advanced educational tools, but I cannot be sure.