We can all make our own special contributions to foster goodwill and understanding.I never thought peace was around the corner when I left North America for Israel back in 1969. But, like everyone, I hoped that one day…
Thirty-nine years have passed, and I’m still dreaming.
I’m a big believer in small. Not all of us are government ministers, but we can all make minor contributions to foster goodwill and understanding. Mine is in the area of children and dental care.
Twelve years ago we began a project at Tel Aviv University of reaching out to educate Jewish and Arab children about the importance of oral hygiene. Initially, we brought in busloads of children from Jaffa and Bedouin settlements for a dental ‘fun day’. They received gifts (not sweets!), had their teeth examined by our senior dental students and faculty, and were taught about the importance of taking care of their teeth. To keep them amused, I developed a play called The Witch and the Toothbrush in which a witch with ugly teeth turns a sassy girl into a toothbrush. The kids, their parents and teachers played the various roles. The spell is reversed only when a young boy learns to brush his teeth properly.
With donations from Ms. Sonia Braverman (LA) and the Arison Foundation, we were able to turn the play into a movie starring the great Israeli comedian Dudu Dotan (this was the last movie he ever made; unfortunately he died at the age of 54, several months later). The movie, available in Hebrew on Youtube was later translated into Arabic, thanks to the help of a prominent dentist, Dr. Bukhari, from Jaffa who did specialist training at Tel Aviv University, along with our students. Both versions are now being watched by children around the world.
In addition, my first children’s book (Bacteria Galore by Sunday at Four) was translated into Arabic and 1,000 books were donated to schools here and in the Gaza Strip (I still have the thank you letter from the UN). The English version of the book (and the Witch and the Toothbrush story) are available on www.meltells.com, a website which I have set up for kids around the world (it’s in English, but I have plans for Hebrew, Arabic and other languages too). Many of the books deal with dental subjects (What to do with a used toothbrush, The amazing tooth fairy), others deal with a variety of health and growing up issues.
Will these reaching out efforts make a difference? Perhaps a small one. I have been to Jordan twice trying to foster peace through teeth. I remember a conversation with a senior military official there who initially found it difficult to even strike up a conversation with an Israeli. At the end of our talk, I hope he came away with a more positive attitude.