With so much going on in the world, it can be difficult for adults, let alone children, to process everything they hear, see, and understand around them.
The latest surge of violence towards Palestinians, which began during Ramadan's holiest days, struck a 70-year-old wound that has never healed.
Many parents with younger children are finding themselves unable to determine what and how much their children need to know about the unrest in Palestine.
It has left some wondering: How do we begin this deeply emotional conversation?
From those who have lived in Palestine and have family there, to people who are blessed to have visited its holy sites, or those who simply feel Palestine in their hearts— how we ultimately choose to communicate the situation there will vary as a result of our diverse perspectives and levels of attachment.
We hope the following points serve as a base for dialogue among your fellow parents, and assist you in determining the best approach for your family.
The Significance of Jerusalem and Masjid Al-Aqsa
JerusalemUnderstanding the history and importance of Palestine is the foundation on which you can begin your discussion. Starting here will help your child to understand the various layers that exist in their connection with the land of Palestine.
You can talk about Jerusalem being one of the oldest and most sacred cities in the world, and how it is also considered a holy city for three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Since the city of Jerusalem is historically associated with several honoured Prophets (including Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Zechariah, John the Baptist/Yahya, and Jesus, peace be upon them all), it naturally becomes a city special to Muslims. In addition, it is also the third most holy city in Islam after Makkah and Medina.
Help your child to understand the significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa. This compound in the old city of Jerusalem is a constant point of contention in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Here are some important facts to share with your children.
- Masjid Al-Aqsa (meaning the Farthest Mosque) is the second masjid ever built in the world.
- In the early days of Islam, Muslims used to pray facing Masjid Al-Aqsa before Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and the believers to face the Ka’bah’.
- The area is not just one masjid, but a group of buildings in a 35-acre compound that includes The Dome of the Rock (the masjid with the golden dome) and the actual Masjid Al-Aqsa, which is the silver-domed mosque inside this compound.
- This area is referred to as al-Haram al-Sharif by Muslims, and as the Temple Mount by Jews.
The blessed Masjid al-Aqsa is also mentioned in the Quran and hadith as the land upon which Allah (ﷻ) placed special blessings. The story of the Night Journey (al-Isra') of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) from Makkah to Jerusalem, and the subsequent Heavenly Ascent (al-Mi'raj) is especially crucial for your child to understand. This incredible event ultimately shaped our beliefs as Muslims.
One Ummah - Build Compassion through Connections
One of the first things children understand is having a sense of family. They know that they have families that they live with and family members like aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins that live elsewhere.
Most importantly, though, they understand that families love and care about each other. This sense of family is also rooted in Islamic traditions and our understanding of the Ummah.
According to hadith, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) says:
“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”
This hadith encourages compassion, love and solidarity. It helps us to become people who care about fellow Muslims, even though they are of different ethnicities and countries. We feel the pain they feel, and we need to help them heal because we want to be free from the pain as well.
Connecting the familial ties and obligations we have to other Muslims around the world, including those in Palestine, will help create the foundation upon which their compassion will grow.
Reason for the Conflict
Talking about the reasons for the conflict in Palestine is perhaps the most challenging part of the discussion, because it involves painful truths and complicated historical and political circumstances that have led us to where we are today.
It's also the point where your child discovers - if they haven't already - that the world isn't an ideal and just place. It may therefore be even more difficult to provide a meaningful answer about why this is happening.
Eman received a lot of praise for her song, which uses rhythmic lyrics to illustrate the history of Palestine and the illegitimate Israeli occupation. Her song presents historical accounts in a simplified manner, that may be beneficial when speaking with children. Using the song as a starting point will also allow your children to ask you more specific questions if they wish to.
Instilling Hope through Action
Even though we are thousands of miles away from Palestine, remind your children that Allah( ﷻ) has made us people of hope and resilience. We must do all that we can in our power to make a difference, and leave the rest to Him. Here are some actionable ways you can teach your children to make an impact.
Millions of people worldwide have recently united within their communities to peacefully protest. This is in an effort to pressure their governments to do more to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and to put a stop to the unparalleled destruction taking place.
Joining a peaceful demonstration in your area will help your children feel they are a part of this greater cause, and creates a platform for those whose voices are not being heard.
Even if your children may be too young to write letters to public officials, inform them that you are doing so on their behalf.
As they grow older, this form of observational learning will assist them in developing a sense of empowerment and teach them that they have civic rights and a voice.
For a more hands on approach, you and your children can also come up with a creative way to raise money among friends and family to support relief efforts.
Ibadah and Dhikr
Remind your children that Allah ( ﷻ ) is the creator of all things and a listener of our hopes and prayers. Because of this, we must continue to pray and do dhikr, especially when we feel sad and helpless.
We should also pray for all those in our ummah family that need the extra duas to help them find ease from their difficulties.
We hope these points help you feel more comfortable in deciding how you begin a conversation about Palestine with your children. Here is a helpful recap:
- Help your children understand the religious and historical significance of the region. Feel free to combine it with your own attachments and experience.
- Discuss the past and present conflicts in a manner you feel works best for your family.
- Talk about ways you all can engage and do your part through meaningful actions.
We hope these steps allow you to have a confident, healthy discussion with your children.