My brother in law and sister decidedly told their children that their days of one man one vote were over the minute they realised their third child was old enough to understand the issues at hand or at least to be bribed by his two older siblings; creating a majority of us against them. ''From now on'' my sister declared ''our home is a dictatorship.'' Of course their home had never really been anything but a dictatorship but they had given their children a sense of their own power by pretending for some time that they all lived fairly and equally in a happy democracy, albeit a democracy where ''some animals are more equal than others.''
Our home was run more along the lines of unintentional Anarchy, which worked up to a point; that point being me. When the chaos became too much for my Libran equilibrium, I would grab hold of the reigns, impose temporary order and re-establish the hierarchy, holding out for as long as the bribe of the moment (candy or television) lasted, which was never very long. No matter how benevolent my mini dictatorship was, there was always a more powerful mini underground terrorist organisation that would stop at no end, to take over the supply (of candy) and the (television) control, leaving me ''running'', usually back to the kitchen, from whence I came.
Being of a primarily liberal nature, when I first discovered the alternative Democratic School system in Israel, I was totally impressed until a student of the system convinced me that it too was '' inherently corrupt''. Still I was willing to suspend judgement and we enrolled our two oldest daughters in the new local Democratic school where if nothing else we would meet like minded parents struggling with issues of anarchy and dictatorship at home, while rallying to support democracy as a concept in public. Since we had arrived in the last three months of the year and our kids spoke very little Hebrew, we saw it as an opportunity for them to make friends and hear Hebrew spoken daily. The following year both girls chose to join the decidedly non democratic public school system where they were rudely confronted with ''compulsory attendance'' and other such outrageous behavioural and educational expectations. Since they had come from a Chabad School in Sydney, they were used to a Theocracy, guided by the benevolent hand of ''Melech Hamoshiach'' himself, so the adjustment was not too difficult.
Our younger son struggled to find his place in both the religious public school and the regular public school. His entire experience of school in Israel was him being screamed at in a language he didn’t understand, but even he rejected the Democratic School choosing instead to attend a small and lovely Anthroposophic school where he happily settled. I first discovered the teachings of Rudolph Steiner many years ago when my first child was born. The spiritual orientation of his teachings sat comfortably next to my love of Bach Flower Remedies, Homeopathy and all things alternative and holistic. However being both spiritual and of Germanic descent, the Anthroposophic system outside of Israel orients itself towards Christianity, and since my husband and I were unquestionably Jewish, in Australia we decided against the Steiner school and instead sent all of our children to the equally radically alternative; the local Chabad school.
In Israel it is different. Here we can send our children to the Anthroposophic school and they will still learn about Moses, Purim and Rabbi Akiva. They will also learn to respect their teachers, their parents and the earth as well as to knit, weave and cook. Their little school sits on the grounds of the larger ''Aloney Yitzchak'' School in the small town of Givat Ada. The untouched forest like grounds bloom wild flowers throughout the year and children climb rope trees and chant multiplication tables while they skip rope for their morning exercises. Everything about the school and the school community is warm and fuzzy. Children are spoken to with respect and love, communication is visual and verbal, learning is soulful, aesthetic, creative and experiential and I am very grateful that our two youngest have the holistic Jewish education I always wanted for my children.
Back at home a rowdy group of teenagers gather. They have been on Facebook. They are angry. There is no junk food, no petrol in the car. They complain that I drink Earl Grey tea in my lavish bedroom upstairs while they have to sit outside in the cold to smoke their cheap tobacco. I hear the rumblings of descent. Perhaps I should climb out the window before they break through the unspoken boundary and come up the stairs to confront me. They will find I have eaten all the choc-chip cookies. I should run while I can. Or perhaps not, perhaps I should face them, hand over the reins in a more responsible way and form a united government, an all inclusive Democratic System; one cookie per kid. Will the underground sisterhood join or will they use their open ended connection to their grandparents to funnel candy and small electronic devices to the younger ones, corrupting them and overthrowing the unstable new Democracy? And what of the neighbours? Do I not have a responsibility to hold on to my position, lest I bring down the whole neighbourhood? At what cost democracy? At what cost.