Students navigate difficult discussions, tensions amid Israel-Hamas war

ByLauren Martinez KGO logo
Friday, October 13, 2023
Students navigate difficult discussions amid Israel-Hamas war
Parents and students across the Bay Area are experiencing heightened tensions amid the Israel-Hamas war.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As students watch what is happening in the Middle East, they're becoming worried about their own sense of security.

This week, 13-year-old Ahmad Subeh has had to field a lot of questions about the Israel-Gaza conflict at his San Francisco Bay Area middle school.

His parents, Mohammad Subeh and Naiema Din, say they've raised their sons to know the history of Palestine, where they still have family.

"I felt a bit worse towards the beginning of the week but I got more questions actually today," Ahmad Subeh said.

Mohammad Subeh said as parents, it's their responsibility to make sure kids are critically thinking about the world around them.

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"The occupation and the struggles day-to-day for Palestinians have been ongoing for a long time and they've seen it. This weekend for Palestinians, just gave light again to their current struggle - the struggle that they've been going through for decades," Mohammad Subeh said.

He wants his son to be informed and comfortable to speak up.

"Helping them just constantly be aware and think about what's happening around them and not be afraid to talk because sometimes, our most powerful tool is being able to talk and raise awareness and answer questions," Mohammad Subeh said.

Naiema Din said speaking out is the first thing they can do during a time when they feel helpless.

"We're all human and nobody can take that away from us. I think that the statements and a lot of what people are putting out is humanizing just one side of this - I don't even know what to call it," Din said.

VIDEO: How to talk to children about the war in Israel

The Mornings @ 10 team was joined by Dr. John Whyte to discuss how to talk about the war in Israel with children.

Ahmad says the conversations he's had at school with friends or other classmates have been welcoming. But he said one parent suggested to him that he shouldn't speak up.

"I don't think it's very just to lower my voice about how Palestinians are being oppressed and losing their lives," Ahmad Subeh said.

Zahra Billoo, the executive director for the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said she's been overwhelmed with the amount of concern members in the community are coming to her with.

Billoo said someone sent her a message right before the interview.

"She said the fear and tension on campus is palpable, we've been hearing that from kids, from their parents from college and graduate school students as well," Billoo said.

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Billoo said a contributing factor to the concern, are the statements some local school districts and leaders are issuing.

"We saw statements that were gently one-sided and then we saw statements that were vitriolic, and you know said 'we stand with Israel' which implies the expense of the over two million people of which more than half are children," Billoo said.

At the Muslim Community Association, volunteer Samir Laymoun said school and educational systems should not bring politics into the environment.

"Kids should not go to school to suffer anxiety. Going to school is anxiety-provoking to start with and when you add pressure of a political conflict, global political conflict and bring it into a school and not clearly understand all aspects of it - that is a disservice to the whole educational community that we are a part of," Laymoun said.

He too is working with school administrators and parents on how to have a healthy dialogue.

"I understand if you want to support the victims of the conflict, the atrocities are horrific that are being reported. It is difficult to wrap your head around. But it's impacting everyone," Laymoun said.

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