Wooden Blocks by Shany, Israel

“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people.”

~Nelson Mandela~

Let me take you back to one of my earliest memories as a child. We are talking about the year of 1994, I was about five at the time. It was a sunny afternoon in my kindergarten located in the center of Israel. I had two best friends named Shiran and Inbar. Every afternoon we had playtime, and it was the norm for me to play both with Shiran and Inbar. But, today something was different— Shiran wanted me to go play with her in the backyard, while Inbar wanted me to be with her in the front yard to play with wooden blocks. For some reason, I decided that Inbar’s idea for fun seemed more tempting, and so I decided to go and play with her.

We were two kids playing with colored wooden blocks as a white wall, dividing us from another kindergarten, stood in front of us.

The children in the other kindergarten were on their playtime break as well. A couple of them were playing on the other side of the wall. When you think about it, playing wooden blocks when you’re a kid is always fun. You can build different structures such as towers and houses with rooftops, but Inbar decided we should put them to a different use. Since the wall wasn’t high and was opened at the top, she came up to me with an idea. “We should throw our wooden blocks on their side of the wall”! Just a few moments later I witnessed Inbar purposely starting to throw one block after the other up and over the wall. I asked her naively, “why are we doing this?” While I was waiting for a reason, the kids on the other side had already started to throw some of their toys on us as well. At that point the game was already in motion, and before I knew it, I found myself taking part in it too as I threw big and heavy wooden blocks back and forth just like all the kids around me were doing. I must admit, at that point I actually enjoyed the game and just when I started to get good at it, we suddenly heard someone screaming. The sound of laughter and pleasant noise from a few moments ago replaced itself with pure and utter quiet. Inbar and I looked at each other and knew something bad had just happened.

We decided to check it out, so we went on our tiptoes to take a look at what was going on the other side of the wall. It was quite clear that one of the kids playing has gotten hurt by the wooden blocks we threw on him. We saw a frightened little boy sitting there with a puddle of blood surrounding him and drops of red blood splattered all over the wooden blocks. Meanwhile, the kindergarten teacher who heard the boy screaming came to check and see what the fuss was all about. She then confirmed with him exactly what happened and, sadly enough, it turns out his nose had been broken.

And as if that was not enough, when the kindergarten teacher asked him to tell her how exactly it happened, the boy simply pointed…. And he pointed at me!

She immediately informed my kindergarten teachers, who then called all of us to come and stand in a circle around them near the now infamous white wall.

They told all the kids what happened was not only bad but also a dangerous thing to do and that no one should act like that in the future. The next thing they did was begin pointing at me. It was the second time that someone was pointing at me that day with an angry look on their face. At the same time, I looked at Shiran and all I kept thinking was why I didn’t go off to play with her instead. Now, when I think about it, she seemed so innocent compared to how I was feeling at the time.

During the next week, from what I began to call the “the battle,” both feelings of guilt and shame started to affect me.

For the first time, I had realized that my actions can actually affect someone else’s life.

It is amazing to think that even twenty-something years after “the battle” I still beat myself up each time I think of that memory. But you know what? It’s okay because I was just a child. I was curious and still didn’t fully understand the difference between knowing good from bad and right from wrong. I was easily influenced by other people’s opinions. But what about grownups? What is their excuse? While growing up remembering that day, I kept asking myself why do grown-up people keep hurting each other and continue to be influenced by others? Even when they already know better, when someone has already taught them the difference between right and wrong. Even when they don’t necessarily know those they hurt. Why some of them don’t feel such guilt and shame like I had felt that day? And finally, who is to blame for that? Those questions always remained in my mind. Ever since “the battle”, it is still painful for me to see people hurting each other because they have a wall between them because they have issues they can’t work out.

The people on the other side automatically become different, an “enemy”, an aim to attack and lash all anger at. Well, my friends, we shouldn’t accept that, not anymore. We should all have a moral compass as both matured human beings as well as citizens of our country and the world as a whole to know better, to choose wiser.

Realize we are all human beings put here on this earth with feelings and emotions, with family and a life story behind us. So why in the world could we, would we want to hurt our brothers?

The sooner we can realize the answer, the world will surely become a much better place to live in… or at least more humane.


This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. 

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