President Reuven Rivlin has partnered with a young boy from Jaffa in making a video promoting tolerance and solidarity.
Rivlin, who has made clear that combating racism and intolerance in Israel society will be a key priority of his presidency, reached out to 11-year-old George Amire after seeing a video that the boy uploaded to Facebook on September 27. The video was shared thousands of times and was also picked up by national media.
In his video, Amire expresses his feelings about being bullied by his public school classmates. Looking at the camera and saying nothing, he holds up pieces of paper on which he has written the hurtful names that the other children call him, such as “girl,” “homo,” and “transvestite.”
Then Amire suggests that there is a better way for people to relate to one another.
“Don’t judge people by how they look,” says one sign. Another says, “Look at me and then look at yourselves. We are the same.” Yet another declares, “The other is me.”
The president, taking a cue from Amire, appears in the new video uploaded to social media on Tuesday, sitting next to the boy, with the two of them taking turns holding up pieces of paper with words and phrases on them.
Their joint message begins with some of the same language as in Amire’s video, and then progresses to a statement against some of the troubling trends in Israeli society today.
“Violence. Hostility. Bullying. Racism. These are only some of the bad things that people encounter every day here in Israel. These are some of the things that must not occur in our country. Let’s promise ourselves that this year we will work toward tolerance, solidarity, unity and equality — values we need in our country.”
Rivlin and Amire’s joint message could not be clearer. The only thing people may question, however, is why Amire, sitting on the left, confusingly holds cards up first, when Hebrew is read right to left.
On Monday, Army Radio reported that Amire’s teacher had a conversation with her students after they saw their classmate’s video. Some of the children reportedly apologized to Amire for their bullying.
Countering bullying should have already been on teachers’ radars this fall, as both Education Minister Shai Piron and Rivlin made statements and sent letters to teachers about the need to deal with racism and violence in Israeli schools.
“You the teachers occasionally feel at war, alone at the front. Each of you is a commander of 40 opinionated and lively children — you stand firm and motivated in the face of escalating violence from time to time, witness incitement, and sometimes even racism,” Rivlin wrote to the educators as the summer’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza was ending and the school year beginning.
“In your war, there are no enemies. In your war, if everyone doesn’t win, everyone loses. Your system requires you to be a protective edge of tolerance and moderation.”