The kids are returning to school this week. Throughout the city, books fly open, papers get assigned, sports start up, after-school activities kick in, friends are reunited and another year of helping our children grow into responsible citizens begins.
The older I get, the more I affirm that schools made a huge mistake when Civics was dropped from the curriculum. Civics was the class that attempted to teach us how our government works, what democracy is all about, even how to behave and perform citizenship. It taught us how and why to vote, how to be active in the community, how to participate in dialog with those with whom we disagreed.
It was in Civics that I first encountered a real engagement with those who enacted their citizenship through dissent. I still remember my teacher explaining what happened at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. I can remember learning about the anti-war movement, the farm workers' grape boycott and Vietnam protests. It was in Civics class that I first encountered the teachings of civil disobedience. It was in Civics that I first made the connection between citizenship and courage.
On Sept. 15 two courageous women from Israel will come to Seattle, and I'm hoping a huge wave of high school students will come out to meet and greet them, to learn from them the meaning of moral courage and true patriotism.
Maya Wind and Netta Mishly both signed the 2008 Shministim Letter: a declaration by Israeli high school students that they would not enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces to occupy Palestinian territories and rule over Palestinian life. In other words, they refused to rule over an occupied people. They refused to recycle violence and revenge toward their neighbors. They refused to confiscate land, to demolish homes, to detain Palestinians without charge. They refused to guard checkpoints, to enforce a siege, and to participate further in the sin of apartheid.
They have paid a price -- military prison -- for their refusal to be conscripted into the Israeli army; and they decided to pay this price while they were still in high school. Unlike our nation, military service is mandatory for Israeli Jews upon completing high school. Maya and Netta are among dozens of Shministim: Israeli youth who have signed this letter of refusal, and many have paid a similar price for following their principles. So young yet so principled, so young yet so full of hope, so young yet so wise, so young yet ready to build a future worth living.
On Tues., Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at the University Friends Meeting Room (4001 9th Ave. NE), Maya and Netta will share their story. It will be an evening of learning about moral and civic courage which are the building blocks of democracy and the pursuit of justice. This is a teaching we could all use.