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The new 'normal' in Israeli education

In the name of the Education Ministry's administration and its pedagogical department, and on behalf of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, a change is hereby declared in the definition of "normalcy."

In the name of the Education Ministry's administration and its pedagogical department, and on behalf of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, a change is hereby declared in the definition of "normalcy."

This ruling comes in the wake of a recent meeting of the pedagogical department, where it was decided that from now on, our elementary-school pupils will be taught that war is not a temporary traumatic event, but rather a permanent and normal situation. We are sick and tired of hearing people grumbling about the current "situation" and about war. You can't complain about something that is simply routine, and it is very difficult to change a situation that is normal. Our pupils must understand that from now on, their lives will revolve around a routine in which constant warfare is punctuated by intervals - that is, cease-fires - during which they can relax and prepare for the next war.

The ministerial decision, it should be said, was preceded by profound discussion. The conclusion of the participants was that war is a normal state of affairs because: (a ) there is no one to talk to; and (b ) there is nothing to talk about. And more to the point: What's so bad about living like this? It will become our routine.

In this routine way of life, we will decorate the air-raid shelters and talk about knocking out targets. We can discuss apartment prices during the intermission. In our new routine way of life, there will be no room for nuisance questions like "When is all this going to end?" Or "What's going to happen afterward?" In our new routine way of life, there will simply be no such thing as "afterward": There will only be war, one long war. A routine war that will be decent and normal (in the event of a tie, we will recommend replacing the somewhat uncivilized word "war" with the more solid-sounding word "operation" ).

So let's talk about the intermissions in this routine war situation. When the pedagogical department uses the term "recess" or "intermission," it does not mean "goofing off." A break is not intended for recreation. A break must be used for making preparations. A break is like a workbook for the summer vacation: Nobody likes such workbooks, but you still have to do all the assignments they contain. In this situation, our pupils will long for the routine of war - just as, toward the end of the summer vacation, they start longing to go back to the classroom.

The pedagogical department is confident that our pupils will prefer the routine of playing games inside the air-raid shelter to the boredom of discussing the price of cottage cheese.

We just have to make some semantic changes: The word "security" will be used instead of "peace," and "deterrence" will be take the place of "security." There is actually no good substitute for "peace" (one could debate the defense budget for many hours, but there is no budget for peace ).

Although the pedagogical department has taken a hard line regarding "peace," it has been fairly lenient with the word "victory." Just last week, we all saw that it is much easier to achieve victory than peace. Peace might bring security, but let's just see it try to bring victory.

In this normal war routine, victory on the television screen will replace victory on the battlefield. In order to achieve victory on the television screen, you don't have to move even one millimeter: You just have to be the first one to shout "We've won!" We have spared no words in describing our victory. We have terms like "We annihilated," "We shattered" and "We liquidated"; afterward, we also have the phrase, "After all, they brought it on themselves." Finally (but only if we have no other choice ), we can also use "We killed."

In the new reality, we'll learn how to live with sentences whose conclusion contradicts its opening words: for example, "If the situation does not quiet down, we will simply continue with the shelling." Furthermore, commentators who will be urgently summoned out of retirement will tell us what it means to "sear something into someone's consciousness," and what deterrent effect deterrence really has.

Deterrence, as you may have noticed, is not aimed at Hamas. The fact is that Hamas is sick and tired of all this deterrence; it is completely deterred. So if you say "deterrence" to Hamas, the response will be one big yawn. Thus, the concept of deterrence is aimed for our usage only. It is intended to remind us that we have plenty of it in our emergency warehouses. If needed, we can use our deterrence to teach those people a lesson. The lesson will be so convincing that they won't know what hit them and, if they do know what hit them, we will have many more opportunities to teach them a lesson. Once and for all.

I must confess that we haven't invented anything new. Do you honestly think that the education minister and the pedagogical department don't understand that we are a tiny and determined Sparta? And just what is so bad about being Sparta? The new Sparta starts in the classroom. In our Sparta, pupils in first grade will know that they are meant to become soldiers. And, if they don't know that fact, the principal - who receives a budget from the minister - will make sure they learn it.

In this neck of the woods, as in Sparta, we will teach schoolchildren obedience, discipline and the skills of warfare. The minister and the pedagogical department just love obedient pupils with good soldiering skills. That is why the minister decided that each school will receive a budget that faithfully reflects how many of its graduates have been inducted into the Israel Defense Forces. I would even venture to guess that pretty soon, each school will receive a budget that accurately reflects how many of its graduates have been inducted into combat units. After all, the minister doesn't want the army to consist solely of jobniks, whose parents have managed to pull the right strings so that they can serve in noncombat jobs close to home.

Well, teachers and instructors, that's it in a nutshell. What we're talking about is a change in attitude and adapting that attitude to the current situation. Nobody will miss the old normalcy, because we already have the new normalcy. We'll get used to it, just as we have gotten used to living in a country that has no borders, or just as people get used to having a small pebble in their shoes. Have you heard anyone complaining?

And as for that person back there in the last row, the one with the glasses who asked "What about the sealed room?" and "Why aren't we using the gas masks that have been overhauled and reissued to us?" - it would be better if that smartass would just relax. We are already working on the problem. He can rest assured that, in the next war, he's going to have to run to the sealed room. And, boy, will he run fast.

By Yossi Klein