A mother, a teacher, a nation’s schools prepare for war

“We are Israelis – you know war is going to come, it’s just when and what magnitude!”

This is what mother and high school teacher Dana Dickenson, a Messianic believer from Haifa, told KNI as Israeli schools were running, for the first time, a comprehensive initiative to prepare children — and their parents — to study from home in the event of war.

The children have a set time to go online and complete the tasks set for them by the teachers, no excuses, Dickenson explained. They can even use smart phones, which most school age children have these days.

“The experiment worked. In fact we found that the children responded very well and almost everyone completed the tasks we set them,” she said. “We kept it as simple as possible and made sure that the parents were aware of what was happening.”

The system is not without flaws. Dickenson said there is no way of confirming the children did their own work without copying from each other. Some schools, however, have online learning systems that allow for individualized monitoring and assessment.

Dickenson explained that the program started last year on an individual basis, but this year is mandatory for schools across the country.

“The children are not told that it is war preparation, just that it is preparation for emergency situations,” she said. “We do not want to make it unnecessarily scary, although between the teachers we discuss the situation fully. We explain to the children that we are a high-tech nation and that this is a new innovation.”

“It worked very well for one day, but I do not think the children could sustain the discipline of working from home over three weeks,” Dickenson told us. “They need the structure of the school environment. I believe more in the ‘old school’ approach.”

Dickenson said this type of training does not make her unduly fearful as a teacher or a mother. She knows how to keep her family safe in times of war and takes them to her mother’s bomb shelter. Many Israelis have grown up through one war or another. Even the children can become cynical when it comes to war and try to lighten the stress with humor. One child at Dickenson’s congregation prayed during wartime that a missile would hit his school over the weekend, when it was closed, so he wouldn’t have to go back.

Dickenson was a student in 1991 during the First Gulf War when she had to carry her gas mask with her everywhere including to school. More frightening was the the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

“There were missiles 24/7!” she recalled.

Then, during the last Gaza war in 2014, the frequent sirens drove her stress levels up again.

“But when you start sitting on the staircase with the neighbors, you start to laugh about it: Six families at 3 a.m. on the staircase is ridiculous,” she said. “Then you get passed the stress.”

These days, Dickenson said, people trust the government less even when it gives the okay for children to go back to school after a round of rocket attacks.

“As a parent I would be concerned whether the teacher would remember my child when they all have to run for the bomb shelter,” she said. “People find their own ways of coping and try to make their own preparations.”

“For non-believers it is perhaps more terrifying, but I don’t know how much more,” Dickenson shared. “We have some confidence because we are believers. We know God is in control!”

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust’
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.’”
Psalm 91:1-16