The first day of school always evokes two very distinct memories for me. Since the entire country starts school on the same day, there is a real sense of excitement that permeates the whole country, of beginnings (and endings) and of camaraderie.
Our first year in Israel, we had a meeting on August 31st at someone’s house in Neve Daniel. I had only two little boys, both of whom were starting nursery school the next day. I remember walking into this house and seeing their five backpacks nicely lined up by the front door. For some reason, that image has stuck with me for 11 years. The backpacks showed such a sense of possibility to me; of order and organization on the part of the parents; of the cycle of life and new beginnings. And now, of course, my guys have their backpacks lined up and ready to go each August 31st.
The other memory is of waking up on September 1, 2004 in our little apartment and hearing my landlord on the floor above singing, “First day of school! First day of school!” as he walked around the house waking his many children. It was such a cute way to awake; there was such a sweet joy in his voice. And it tickled me that we were all, the entire yishuv, the entire country(!) getting ready for school on the very same day. We were all experiencing the excitement, the anxiety together. And this is so true for much of what happens in this little country of ours.
I don’t believe we took a picture of them getting ready for school that year (how could that possibly be?) but this is what Matan and Yehuda looked like in September of 2004 when they entered the Israeli school system for the first time.
Armed with these memories, I woke the kids this morning (they are still jetlagged and would sleep well into the morning if I let them) and gathered them up for their first day. Life has gotten so busy for us that I actually took their traditional “back to school” picture last night. Last year we ended up photo shopping Matan into the picture since he had returned to school a day earlier than the other kids started. This year, we grabbed the opportunity on August 31 to capture them all (including weapons boy, tantrum boy, and the dog we are babysitting) and to get them together.
It’s another year of possibilities, of futures, of promise. I recently reflected on what I wrote one year ago today, when Matan headed off to high school. A year later, I am so grateful that we found the perfect school for him. It is reassuring to know that today, when I send him off for his sophomore year, I will (hopefully) have less tears of adjustment, less fear for his comfort and workload. He is in his element and growing into such a glorious young man with the help of this amazing institution. Eliav said to me this morning, “Mommy, remember last year how you cried and cried when Daddy drove away with Matan?” Gee, thanks kid. I replied, “Yep, I’m really good at that. Might be one of my best skills. I’ll probably cry a bit today too, buddy, but maybe not as much.” It’s still very hard to see my first born going away again. We had an amazing summer together and I loved having him under our roof. But I know that he is gaining many skills at school that can’t be taught at home and that he’s growing into the man he’s supposed to be.
Yehuda heads into his last year at Orot Etzion this year, and we will be looking ahead to find the right high school for him as well.
And the rest of them? Well, they will be doing their usual learning with a good bit of basketball, art, swimming and judo thrown in.
May it be a great year ahead for all of us as we start our 12th school year in Israel.