Delivered on the 26.5.2019
"Your children are not your children They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they do not belong to you".
I believe that you, the parents who sit here in the audience and the ones watching us from homes around the world are the best examples of putting into practice the complicated and counter intuitive message of the great poet Khalil Gibran.
You all made a remarkable, almost unbelievable, step when you gave your children the freedom to go and explore for themselves. It was not only a brave thing to do, but also an uncommon step to take. You understood that your children are independent from you. You may love them, cherish them, nourish them and invest in them, but they do not belong to you. There are many parents who feel a strong sense of ownership over their children and limit their paths to become like themselves in different ways, hence your approach is nothing less than inspiring.
Following this, I would like to take this inspiration and share a message about belonging and ownership. Two close and extremely distant concepts.
Last September a senior Israeli politician uploaded a video to his Facebook page in which he encouraged people to go out and travel around the country. "this is the most beautiful land on earth" he said "and do you know why? Because it belongs to us". When I watched it I immediately felt that he was wrong. Not because this land necessarily belongs to anyone else, it is because I am not sure a land can really belong to anyone. When I think of my connection to this place I feel that I belong to the land, not the other way around. It is my excitement of every single place that I travel, my love for the scenery that I know so well, my desire to be here, my sense of belonging. This is almost as far away as you can get from the sense of land ownership. And yet it is so close and confusing.
The concept of ownership was formed a long time ago and brought much order and stability to our human lives. But at the same time it also brought distraction and pain. When we perceive something as our own we start to exploit it, to tear it apart, to destroy it. When something belongs to us we lose boundaries, we have no limitations. When we confuse belonging with ownership we always want more, we are getting into an unstoppable race after things to own, we forget what we need and replace it with what we can have.
I am not about to ask that we abandon all ownership, but I do wish to open our eyes to the price we all pay.
And it is a high price.
The destruction of our planet, the exploitation of resources, the abuse of animals and manpower around the world go together, hand in hand, with our endless lack of satisfaction, our hatred, envy and indifference to others' well-being.
Look at the governors who think that their position belongs to them, at the employers who see their workers as their property, at the businessman who never stop in the pursuit of more money. I must ask you today not to be those people. I must ask you today, for your benefit and ours, to ask yourselves the right questions.
I suggest that you will ask yourselves- where do I feel I belong rather than what belongs to me? To ask what makes me feel that I am a part of rather than what part do I own? And where do I feel that I am worthy rather than how much can I get out of it?
It is obviously easier said than done. But, at least at EMIS we tried, each and every staff member, to answer some of these questions. We tried to make you feel that this is where you belong, no matter where you come from and who you are. We tried to make you feel that you are a part of us, no matter your background or agenda. We aimed to create a community of belonging and not of ownership. It wasn't an easy thing to aspire to, but I think that with your help and devotion we succeeded to a very large extent.
As an educator I learn every year the hard lesson of ownership and belonging. No matter how much you may feel the students are yours, there comes the day when school ends. You made me feel that I belong, but now you go. And I want to tell you that although you were never my own, you are still a part of me and, in a way, you will always be. Remember that this was and still is a place where you belong. One small beautiful spot in the Middle East.
I wish for you to seek and find more places of belonging, more friendships, more meaning.
Take a deep breath, the journey has only begun.