First day of school brings out politicians’ sentimental side
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First day of school brings out politicians’ sentimental side

Ministers and MKs post photos and wax poetic on their own earliest days in school — with a subtext of politics

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (front row, right) in elementary school. (photo credit: via Facebook)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (front row, right) in elementary school. (photo credit: via Facebook)

The new school year evoked reminiscences and words of wisdom from some Israeli politicians.

“I still remember my first day [of school], the fear of the unknown,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) wrote on Facebook on Tuesday morning. “Years later, when I placed my oldest son in the hands of the education system, the apprehension was even greater,” Livni recalled.

Like many MKs, she took the opportunity on Tuesday, the start of the new school year, to wish “to you, the parents and children, a school year that enriches and strengthens you. As my mother told my math teacher: ‘The important thing is that she becomes a human being.'”

Livni also posted a photograph of her school days (above) at the Dubnov School in Tel Aviv, “which has since turned into a cafe as the neighborhood aged.”

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) recalled “the months of excitement” before starting first grade. “What would it be like? Who will I meet? I especially remember how badly I wanted to learn to read and write,” he wrote on Tuesday beneath a photograph of himself as a young boy grinning at the camera.

MK Nitzan Horowitz as a little boy (photo credit: via Facebook)
MK Nitzan Horowitz as a little boy (photo credit: via Facebook)

For Horowitz, his earliest memories in school are not very distant from his present political life. “It was in the Be’eri School in Rishon Lezion,” he recalled. “They sat us down in the small playground, and the principal, whose name was also Horowitz (no relation), stood before us with the school’s sky-blue flag and told us that ‘Be’eri’ was the nickname of Berl Katznelson, for whom the school was named, and his values, the values of the labor movement, were the values of our school: learning, labor and equality. I don’t remember if I already had a developed political consciousness back then, but if I remember her words after 40 years, they must have struck home.”

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) wrote his own school-year note on Monday to his daughter, Michal, who started first grade on Tuesday.

Under a photo of himself on his own first day of first grade, he wrote, “Tomorrow, Michali, you start first grade. In this picture, your father when he started first grade. You see — you already have a head-start: you look like your mother,” he quipped.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on his first day of first grade (photo credit: via Facebook)
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on his first day of first grade (photo credit: via Facebook)

He offered his daughter some advice.

“Tomorrow will be the first time that someone will be able to compare himself to you, and with numbers. The truth is, Michali, no one has yet invented a metric for comparing human beings, for cataloging them. Steer clear of anyone who does that. Be color-blind, by choice. Be kind to all. That’s a thousand times more important than your grades, which are important, but not as important as your heart.”

In school, he wrote, “you will meet kids who came each one from a different family, from a different place. The truth is, Michali, that among Jews there ten opinions and twenty leaders for every two children.”

Bennett, too, did not leave his politics out of the picture. “In the difficult moments,” he wrote to his daughter, “in moments when you really need human beings beside you, you won’t trade your people for anyone else in the world. In our case, as the Jewish people, it’s better to have a distant brother than a close neighbor. That’s a lesson of history.”

The photos kept coming on Tuesday.

Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), a former education minister, shared a photo of herself as a young girl, and a poem.

“A person remains a child, all his days a child
Who chases after a dream
A person remains a child, all his days a child
Who asks more questions.”

Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) as a young girl. (photo credit: via Facebook)
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) as a young girl. (photo credit: via Facebook)

“Now try to recognize the girl in the photo,” she added.

MK Miri Regev (Likud) posted a class photo from second grade.

“I’m there in the picture. Yes, top row, second from the right, for those who insist,” she wrote.

“Going back to school is always exciting. Every year brings a new story, new friends, and also fears. The multiplication table, percentages, fractions, pop quizzes in writing — every year and its unique challenge,” she wrote.

MK Miri Regev (Likud), second from the right in the back row, in elementary school (photo credit: via Facebook)
MK Miri Regev (Likud), second from the right in the back row, in elementary school (photo credit: via Facebook)

“I loved studying and saw in school a place of learning, education and true friendship,” she recalled.

Her own daughter Yael “finished high school a few months ago. She’ll be drafted soon,” wrote Regev, a former brigadier-general and IDF spokesperson. “Yaeli, how quickly the years have passed! I remember your first day of first grade. A beautiful girl with a pony tail, a backpack, a delicious sandwich and notebooks covered in colorful paper. And soon, the army.”

Another Likud MK, Deputy Minister in the PMO Ofir Akunis, posted his own smiling first-grade portrait.

Deputy Minister in the PMO Ofir Akunis (Likud) on his first day of first grade (photo credit: via Facebook)
Deputy Minister in the PMO Ofir Akunis (Likud) on his first day of first grade (photo credit: via Facebook)

“Hello, first grade!” he wrote. “Nobody forget this exciting day.”

After criticizing former Meretz education minister Amnon Rubinstein and current Finance Minister Yair Lapid for allegedly lowering educational standards, Akunis returned to the sentimental.

“This morning [my wife] Adi and I accompanied Yehonatan and Roni to class, like millions of other parents. The excitement, the festivities, the smell of the new books. All Israel’s citizens are feeling that excitement today. To the students, the teachers, the principals, all the employees of the education system — good luck!”

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) offered her best wishes to her nephew Amitai, who started first grade on Tuesday, and offered some thoughts about changing perspectives.

In sixth grade, she writes, “I used to like leaving 15 minutes before the end of [the day’s last] class so I could change into the yellow uniform of the ‘gold guard,'” the middle-school volunteers who help control traffic near schools.

She loved “to see how traffic stopped when we, as kids, said ‘open’ or ‘closed,'” she recalled.

Today, as Israel’s top road safety official, “I can see what was once, as a child, just another school experience, as something far more important for saving lives.”

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) in sixth grade. (photo credit: via Facebook)
Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) in sixth grade. (photo credit: via Facebook)

Some MKs preferred to post pictures of themselves with their children or grandchildren who were starting the new school year on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar, a former education minister, proudly posted a photograph of himself and a daughter Alona, holding a book with the word “Shakespeare” on the cover, calling her “my star in the 11th grade theater track.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), a former education minister, with daughter Alona at the start of the 5774 school year (photo credit: via Facebook)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), a former education minister, with daughter Alona at the start of the 5774 school year (photo credit: via Facebook)
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