Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Minister of Education Yuli Tamir, scraping the bottom of the making-the-Holocaust-cool-enough-for-our-apathetic-kids barrel, has declared a national project in which high school students will compete to gather the most glass marbles, in an effort to collect 1.5 million marbles, one for each Jewish child perished in the Holocaust.
Paper Clips is a 2004 award-winning documentary about middle school children from the city of Whitwell, Tennessee who tried to collect 6 million paper clips to commemorate the estimated number of Jews who lost their lives by the Nazis.
A young aid probably handed the minister a copy of the movie and she must have thought that this idea is, like, totally cool and stuff – and decided to create her own governmentally funded spin-off project.
I have watched the movie last year and thought it was very moving, so how can I be against a similar project this year? Am I just pro paper clips and anti marbles? Please watch the Paper Clips film trailer now before reading the rest of this post:
Okay, now let us examine the differences:
The rural community of Whitwell has a population of less than 2000 residents, all of them white, all of them Christians.
A middle school history class about the Holocaust made the children aware of the fact that they have never met a Jewish person, nor can grasp the notion of six million people.
The children started writing letters to some people, explaining their project and asking them to kindly send one paper clip.
The project continued for a number of years.
Without giving too much away I will just say that this simple idea started a chain of events and made a difference in the lives of the students, the school and the city.
As a Jewish person, I have found the movie to be inspirational, as it documented contemporary kids who were not obsessed with pop culture and shopping, who were not apathetic when taught about events that happened half a century ago in a country they have never visited to a people they have never met.
That is why I did not linger over the gut feeling that linking paper clips and people is a bit simplistic and might be considered in bad taste by some people.
Now let’s get back to Tamir’s idea:
The esteemed minister initiated a government initiative in which school children from all over Israel will compete with other schools, to see who collects the most marbles.
Most of the children will most likely buy the marbles, to increase their chances of winning.
The project will probably be time-restricted, to make sure the attention-deficit youngsters will not lose interest.
These children will not be encouraged to meet a Holocaust survivor and learn about his ordeals.
These children will not be encouraged to investigate how many of their own relatives perished in the Holocaust.
These children will not be encouraged to learn about recent incidents of genocide.
These children will not be encouraged to investigate xenophobia in their own environment.
Oh no, these children are encouraged in a government funded project to collect marbles, in an effort to quantify the suffering and prove once and for all that our Holocaust was bigger and better than everyone else’s, and being in the Holocaust* was a total bummer.
I believe this is another clear sign the empire is sinking.
*Israeli children may often say ‘he was in the Holocaust’, subconsciously referring to the Holocaust as a physical place.