|CHAI/Hakol Chai achieved a major step toward its long-worked for goal of banning horse- and donkey-pulled carts from city streets and highways throughout the country, when Israel‘s Transportation Ministry agreed to accept Hakol Chai’s suggested new regulation to ban these vehicles. The Justice Department must now check the text of the new regulation before it heads to the Knesset Finance Committee for final approval, which is expected at the end of January, after the national elections. Israel will then become the first country to ban all vehicles pulled by animals on city streets and highways. Horses and donkeys are used in Israel to haul furniture, appliances, old clothing, scrap metal, rocks from construction sites, and heavy produce like watermelons. They are often starved, beaten, denied veterinary and farrier care, forced to stand in the hot sun all day without water, and to wear ill-fitting harnesses that gouge into their flesh. At the end of the summer or when they are too ill or weak to work, they are abandoned. Some collapse in the street, still in their harnesses. At a meeting last month with representatives of the Transportation Ministry, Hakol Chai presented a collage of photos of abused cart horses sent to it by concerned citizens from around the country, entitled “Israel in the 21st Century” and requested that the regulations be changed to ban the phenomenon nationwide. The Ministry agreed to Hakol Chai’s request, and Hakol Chai representatives then worked with committee members to draft suggested wording for the new legislation.
CHAI’s Arab Education Program Is Creating a Better World
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Expanding the Circle of Compassion, CHAI’s pilot humane education project for Arab schools in the north of Israel—launched in October following our introductory conference for Arab teachers, principals, and counselors—is reaching over 600 students and already achieving amazing results. This groundbreaking program is the first time humane education has been taught in Arab schools in Israel on a continuing basis, by students’ regular teachers under our supervision and guidance, as part of the curriculum. “The values taught by this program exactly match those that our school aims to instill in children,” commented a principal of one of the participating schools. She emphasized how important it is to teach humane values at an early age. Respect, responsibility, empathy, critical thinking, and empowering children to make compassionate choices to create a better world are the building blocks of our program. Teachers report that students are excited by and engaged in the lessons, which are allowing them to express and explore their feelings about animals for the first time. They are discovering that both humans and animals have emotions and intelligence and that every living being deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. “Before this program,” one boy commented, “I thought of animals as stupid and without feelings and was afraid to have them in my family because I thought they were aggressive and dangerous, but I learned that animals are sometimes more intelligent than humans and I am no longer afraid of them. This program gives me tools for how to treat animals,” he told the teacher. Some students reported that they feel closer to animals than to people.
One of the many benefits of humane education is that it helps teachers identify children at risk of violent behavior. Scientific studies have shown that cruelty to animals in children is an accurate predictor of violence toward humans when children become adults. In response to a teacher’s questions “Should we be responsible for animals? Should we have compassion for them?” one student answered that he didn’t feel compassion for animals, for humans, and not even for himself because no one cared about him. The teacher learned that neither parent was in his life, and acted immediately to get him help. Other students reported overhearing a boy bragging to his classmates that he had cut the tails off of cats in his neighborhood. Their teacher told the class that such behavior is cruel and unacceptable and immediately arranged counseling for the boy. How many lives, human and animal, might our program be saving? Teachers offer students an opportunity to explore their feelings, and they stress the importance of not taking out their pain and anger on animals. One boy said he picked up and threw his cat out of frustration over something and later felt terrible about what he had done. Another boy said his brother hit him and he immediately hit his dog, who bit him. He realized it was his own fault and felt bad for the dog. In each case, teachers reinforced the message that it is wrong to harm animals. Children spoke up about having seen dogs burned, donkeys and horses abused and whipped, and said they won’t put up with such abuse of animals anymore and will do something to stop it. “If you were in the place of the abused animals,” the teacher asked, “how would you feel and what would you want others to do?” One boy said his father had given him a gift of birds in a cage, but he felt so sorry for them, he released them. His father was very angry, he said, but he felt he had done the right thing. A teacher set up a website on which children can post their stories and poems about animals. October marked the annual celebration of the holiday of Eid al-Adha, a festival of sacrifice during which people kill animals and give a portion of the meat to the poor. It is considered a blessing for children to watch and participate in the slaughter. Teachers reported that children returned to school afterwards highly upset and confused by the contrast between our message of compassion and respect and what they witnessed. While observing one class, for example, Hakol Chai’s program supervisor noticed a boy who was so upset, he was unable to speak or write. An additional teacher and a counselor were called in to comfort and support students in the class. Killing animals on this holiday is a cultural tradition, not a religious requirement. Children can donate to charity instead and we have asked religious leaders to clarify for students the importance of kindness to animals in their religion. Students in one participating school are of the Druze religion, a unique sect of Islam. Israeli citizens, the Druze have risen to high-ranking Army officer positions, lost their lives in combat, and many have become members of the Knesset (Parliament). The Druze believe that being vegetarian brings us closer to God and their religious leaders are vegetarian. They do not allow children under the age of 7 to participate in the Eid al-Adha animal slaughter. We will ask the Moslem and Druze religious leaders we invite to address students to inform schools and parents that it is acceptable for all, especially children, to replace slaughtering animals with acts of charity. Our educational programs for secular schools in Israel and for Jewish schools everywhere will be launched soon. Please support our educational programs that go to the root of the problem of indifference and cruelty, planting seeds of kindness and compassion in the next generation. Send your generous tax-deductible contributions to CHAI, POB 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302, or donate online on our website.