As protective adults, there are times we wish we could shield our children from all the evil and terror in the world. This is not always possible.
Sometimes, like in the recent massacre at the school in Peshawar, where more than 140 people were murdered by Taliban terrorists, and last week’s events in Paris, it was children who witnessed these atrocities first-hand.
Which leads to a difficult question: How do we go about teaching our children about the threat of terror?
First, it is important to consider that a lot depends on time and place. The children of Sderot will require a different education to the children of Southgate. If there is a real danger, it needs to be addressed, however difficult it may be. If the issue of the threat of terror is more theoretical, it is still important, but a careful analysis is needed to make sure that we don’t end up over frightening our youngsters. There are many dangerous people in the world, but not every new person we meet needs to be feared.
That said, whereas the level of threat in the UK may not be as high as in some other places, it should not be underrated
. An intelligent Jewish child will notice that there is a regular security presence outside almost every synagogue and Jewish school.
Whether it is a parents’ rota or a professional security company, it will usually be higher than the level of security found outside non-Jewish schools or places of worship. It can be hard to explain exactly why it is that our communities are targeted more than others. Maybe we can learn a lesson from another example of how the Torah teaches us to combat danger. Included in a parent’s requirements and responsibilities towards the general upbringing of their children is the mitzvah to teach one’s children to swim (Talmud: Kiddushin 29a).
At some point in a child’s life, they will encounter deep water and they need to be taught to swim, to be able to survive this danger. We don’t teach our children to fear water, we teach them how to navigate it. We, likewise, can’t teach our children to fear everyone they meet.
Rather we need to teach them how to “swim” in this world, how to be aware of the very real dangers, but still have the faith and courage to be able to build a better future.
• Yisroel Binstock is the cental rabbi of Tribe