I worked Sunday so I was free for the 'Welcome to 1st Grade!' ceremony on Monday morning - both my son and daughter were playing in the orchestra. In addition my daughter and the other vavs (6th graders) taking part in the actual ceremony.
To start the ceremony there is the entry of the first graders to lots of singing, flag waving and clicking of camera shutters. They do a round of the basketball court, in the style of a mini-Olympics, either looking scared and tearful or waving happily to their parents.
Once they are seated there are the speeches (why oh why does every single event involves speeches?) by the Headmaster, the chairman of the local council and the chair person of the parents' committee.
Luckily it is election year so the chairman of the local council kept his speech to the bare, boring minimum. Normally he arrives half an hour late then spends forty minutes thanking his cronies and telling us all the wonderful things he is doing for our town, in general, and our children, in particular. Brilliant for insomniacs.
Each child reads a line or two, which involves some complicated shuffling of the microphone and a lot of unintelligible mumbling, until they reach the end of a row: about half a dozen children. Then there follows an interlude with dancing and singing to badly amplified music.
Lather, rinse, repeat four or five more times until all the participants have either danced or spoken.
This year participation in the entertainment was allocated according to gender with the boys speaking and the girls dancing. Although one group of boys from a lower class gave a short display of their gymnastic ability.
Throughout the ceremony the class teachers do their best to keep the lower classes quiet as they wriggle in their seats. But by far the greatest disturbance comes from the parents.
When the first graders make their entrance their parents are so totally overwhelmed with emotion they run amok, squeezing both cheeks and shutter buttons with almost hysterical enthusiasm.
After a few minutes of patient waiting the headmaster, a stickler for discipline, calls them to order. Setting a great example for their children the parents ignore him. After several more minutes, with the help of a few teachers and judicious use of the microphone, the parents are herded to the back of the crowd.
In my day, oh so many moons ago!, parents sat on chairs while children sat crossed-legged on the floor. Not so in today's Israel. The chairs are all reserved for the children while the parents must stand at the back, shuffling round in the semi shade, straining to hear what is being said and doing their best not to miss their progeny's 15 seconds of 'fame'.
As time wears on they become more and more restless until they huddle in groups discussing in muted, and not so muted tones, various subjects only marginally related to their children's education and bemoaning the waste of a morning's holiday from work. A few give up altogether and go to sit under a shady tree.