The Dreidel Game

The Dreidel Game December 20, 2012

So, the new school I am working at is a secular, private institution.  I’m all kinds of happy there.  I look forward to my days, and if there was a way for me to be a permanent fixture there, I would give it some very serious thought.  If I could bring Kate and Pea along it would be even better…it would be perfection.

The school is built on the model that they celebrate each and every walk of life.  There are families of any different religion imaginable, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-language and all-encompassing.  There are as many different types of families as there are classrooms and it just works.

So, because it is currently Hanukkah as well as Christmas, there is a dreidel game in the classroom.  Yesterday, I  learned how to play.  It was a LOT of fun.  I would love to buy this game for my children and my nieces and nephew to play.  It is a simple game, like Uno.

Why am I writing about this?

Because I wonder how much of the ‘I hate Israel’ agenda (not from home – but from outside sources) is absorbed by my ladies, and I wonder if having a toy that is associated with the Jewish/Israelite culture will cause a problem for them or with their friends.

I hate that I am even questioning this purchase because of stereotypes and preconceived notions and because when I hear from Rachael, who is currently living in Palestine…and she talks about the genocide in Israel/Palestine and how people (from both religions) are being treated like disposable trash because of their heritage and their religion…I’m conflicted.  Because we are a Muslim family and so by default we are supposed to be Pro-Palestine and Anti-Israel.

I know in my heart that it isn’t logical.  I know I don’t know enough to even have a logical discussion about this struggle, and yet I’m conflicted.

I need to work through this.  It is it just a game isn’t it?  Or is it more than just a game?

 


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  • For more information about the history of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, check out the timeline I found here: http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000635

  • Dreidel is a simple and fun game, yes. I also think it can be more than “just” a game. Jewish tradition teaches that when we play dreidel during Chanukah, it’s an opportunity to remember the Chanukah story of king Antiochus (Greek/Syriac) who took control of Jerusalem, who made it illegal to worship the One God or to observe Shabbat or to study Torah, who sacrificed pigs on the altar in the holy temple there…and how he and his soldiers were defeated and the temple was reconsecrated and the eternal light was rekindled once again.

    Tradition says that while people were studying Torah in secret, they would post children playing dreidel outside the door, and when the children saw the soldiers coming, they would warn those who were studying scripture, so the studiers could hide their books before the soldiers arrested them. So when I play dreidel, it’s a silly and enjoyable little game, sure — but it’s also a reminder of something deeper, the story of people who studied Torah and worshipped God even though in so doing they risked death.

    I don’t know what to tell you about your fear that your children might encounter trouble from their friends because of enjoying a Jewish toy. I can tell you that I hope to teach my own son that different religious traditions are legitimate paths to God; I don’t ever want to imagine him hating anyone because of their religious practices or beliefs.

  • Rachael

    The conflict is a hard topic to discuss. It is hard for people to fully understand everything from the outside. It only becomes more realistic when you are living it. I believe Muslims side more with Palestine because they know their religion is being blamed for acts of violence there that Israel likes to make non Muslims (Americans) believe is the reason behind it. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that there are tons of Christian Palestinians. The stereotypes is what kills me about this topic.

  • It’s funny to hear- having grown up as a Jewish kid, I tend to think about dreidel as the ultimate in dull games that you’re expected to play. I haven’t played in years.

    I guess it’s an inherently Jewish game, in its basis, although whether or not you associate Jewish and Israeli is up to your ideology. As a Jew, I’d be happy to see Muslim kids playing it. After all, the message is that we study sacred text no matter what the presures are against us, and that we acknowledge miracles of all sorts. Those are messages that I think most religious people share.

  • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I could just hug you all. I kept circling around in my head and my logic and gut said one thing, then I kept second guessing myself because…well, because I feel like I’m flying in the dark with blinders on most of the time and I didn’t want to make a choice without talking through it with others who know more than I.

    Rachel, Thank you for telling me this story. I love the story and the history behind the game. We teach our children that those followers of the Jewish religion follow the same basic guidelines as Christians and Muslims. The big main difference is that the Jewish followers believe that Moses was the last prophet. Christians believe that Jesus was the last prophet and the Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last prophet. Its like stops on the train station, all headed in the same direction, just different stops.

    Rachael, Thank you for showing me a window into a region that still baffles me. I understand the basics of the story, but what I get is so filtered and tainted by the politics and cultural history that it is difficult to know what is real and what is legend. Please keep sharing. I’m honored that you let us into this part of your life.

    Maya, It may be a boring game if you grew up with it, but from here it is a new cultural game, it has foreign words on it and foreign letters. You play with fake money that is from a different country/culture and its all so exotic. Add this to the fact that I was playing with 6 year old kindergartners…who were teaching me their interpretation of the game. It was exciting. 🙂 You are dead on with your inclusive statement. We all study sacred text that speaks of miracles brought to us to share the wonder of God. The more we learn, the more we understand we are not so different.

    I hope you all see this.

    In Peace,

    Kristina