How do you spell ‘flotilla’?

June 4, 2010 by

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“So you know my kid Idan, don’t you? I went off with him to an English spelling competition yesterday. Very bourgeois of us, I know. In the middle of Tel Aviv, I’m sitting in a hall, biting my nails, waiting to see if my Israeli son can spell ‘nervous’ – in English!

He did okay, ended up mis-spelling an easy word he’d normally get right. Knocked out in a fairly early round. I’m proud of him anyway.

But the thing is, it turned out that the woman who’d organized the whole thing had made a mistake. She’d sent out the wrong list of words to a few schools, so there was a group of kids who failed at the outset. It didn’t take long for people to realize what had happened. Not gradually, but incredibly quickly, the whole thing turned into chaos.

The kids started crying. So of course all their parents started shouting. So then the woman in charge started crying. And so then some parents blamed the other parents for making the woman cry, and in the meantime all the kids who were still in the competition started to cry because the competition was disintegrating before their eyes. So then their parents started shouting too, and everyone had a well-argued principled reason why they were right and why no one else had an opinion worth hearing unless they had a louder voice. Totally crazy.

At some point in the middle of all this over-excitement I hear one guy roar: ‘WHAT IS THIS? A PEACE FLOTILLA IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AT SEA? WHAT DID YOU THINK? THAT YOU COULD RAPPELLE A FEW SOLDIERS DOWN ON DECK AND THINK WE’RE JUST GOING TO LIE DOWN AND TAKE IT???’

And for one split-second, for one beautiful split-second, there was silence. It looked like everyone was about to suddenly crack up laughing. It was a shining moment bursting with potential, where the distress, the frustration, and the confusion of the last 24 hours might be expunged, and new perspectives might flood in. It was a silence full of light, full of hope.

Like I say, it was a split second. It passed. And the screaming and the shouting started up again at a higher volume, fuelled up for more.

I walked out of the hall with my hand on Idan’s shoulder, both of us trying hard to hear that silence again.”

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