Israel’s children are going back to school today, filled with excitement and pride. They represent such a broad range, such a dazzling mosaic.
For some of our children—good morning, first-graders!—this will be their first encounter with a school, a classroom, and teachers. For others, our young twelfth-graders, this will be their last year in the school system. And in the middle, all across the land, at all ages, are all our other finest sons and daughters. They will all be ably conducted by our dear and beloved teachers, those who help our children grow, learn, develop, and improve.
From my family’s perspective, we have had the great privilege of knowing, up close, a truly exemplary educational figure: my mother-in-law Zvia Afek, Michal’s mother, was an educator in the fullest sense of the term. Whole generations of Israeli citizens were shaped by her, making her—and us—so proud.
I regularly meet the youth, educators, and future leaders, and I ask them: What can we do to make sure our schools teach children how to argue respectfully, how to reach out to each other, and how to get to know each other? And time after time, the answer I hear is: “Education. That’s what education is for.”
And indeed, what makes the teaching profession so utterly distinctive is that teachers never operate only in the present. They are people of the future, who educate and shape the generation of the future.
What about the teachers?
You, dear teachers, are our main partners in shaping and influencing our sons and daughters, our boys and girls. They are in your faithful hands for the most critical moments of the construction and consolidation of their personal and group identities.
In these moments, as they march forward, they need you there not only as teachers but also as educators, as education-oriented leaders, teaching them how to converse with each other, how to get to know each other, how to disagree with each other, how to foster a culture of disagreement from a place of respect.
You, true artists of education, have already acquired the ability and confidence to discover, open up, learn and create an environment of genuine partnership and bridges of hope. Please, bring your different voices to your lessons, to your school hallways, to your annual trips, to your ceremonies and events.
Take your students and teach them how every day and every class are opportunities to learn something meaningful about themselves and their society. Equip them with skills and tools, so that in the future, they’ll be able to lead Israeli society together. Prepare our children for a future of mutual exchanges. Be that bridge yourselves.
Thank you to all the teaching staff, and best of luck to all the students! May you all have a wonderful and inspirational school year!
Isaac Herzog is the President of the State of Israel.