The Safety Class

A number of years ago Emunah, a women’s organization with charitable projects including a chain of daycare centers, offered an 8-session course in child safety to its employees and volunteers. Since I had small children and worked with new mothers, I decided to try it out.

Like many programs in Israel the class started at 5 PM. My teen was willing to supervise the younger ones, including my two-year-old. But I knew things could get rowdy, and left the house with apprehension.

The instructor, a doctor who worked for the child safety organization Beterem, started on time. She raised her cell phone in the air and pointedly turned it off, instructing us to do the same. I tried not to think about what was happening at home.

To prepare for her lecture, the instructor had visited the local children’s hospital to learn about recent accidents:

  • Accident #1: Because of a recent school strike, a preschool teacher brought her six-year-old to work and asked him to prepare cups of water for the children. The child found some blue “candy” that fizzed when he dropped it in the water. He thought it would be a special treat for the kids, so he added one to each cup. The instructor described the severe chemical burns in the throats and esophagi of the children who drank the poison before the boy’s error was discovered.
  • Accident #2: This one was also related to the strike. A grandmother asked a 7-year-old to prepare the baby’s bottle. The little girl spilled boiling water over herself, causing third-degree burns all over her body including her chest. She would have to spend months in the hospital recovering. Her breast tissue was destroyed, meaning she would never grow breasts or nurse.

I don’t remember details of accidents 3 and 4, but they involved cars, small children and lack of restraints.

Surprisingly, the speaker gave an example of an accident that could not have been prevented: A teen injured by a falling rock while on a hike. Maybe hikers should wear helmets? Or that part of the path could have been closed off? The speaker clearly lacked imagination.

She talked about Beterem’s campaign urging parents not to let children cross streets alone before age 9, explaining that children’s visual perception is not developed enough to judge distance. She criticized parents who said Beterem expected mothers to rush home from work to cross the street with their six-year-olds after school.

The instructor also brought up the law that allows six-year-olds to watch younger siblings. Everyone knows that is too young, but lawmakers can’t agree on an appropriate age. This also affects working parents.

I learned that bananas are a choking hazard. Like hotdogs, they should be slit lengthwise before serving.

After two hours of warnings, with no trace of humor or even a smile from the teacher, we were allowed to turn on our cellphones and go home. Fortunately, my kids were still in one piece.

When I rode home with a few of the daycare center managers, the woman sitting next to me did not put on her seatbelt even after I reminded her. I guess not everyone absorbs things the same way.

I never went back to the class.


  1. What i find most scary is that a ganenet would would serve an unknown blue drink to children without question.

    You were right not to return.

  2. This one: Accident #2: This one was also related to the strike. A grandmother asked a 7-year-old to prepare the baby’s bottle. The little girl spilled boiling water over herself, causing third-degree burns all over her body including her chest.

    is similar to what happened to a girl who was probably a bit younger than that when she lifted a pot of soup. But I think the burns she got on her chest and stomach were not third degree.

    I know a father who burned his baby’s arm while preparing a water bottle. He was holding it in one arm, while filling the bottle with the other hand. He was using the disposable bag inserts. The hot water caused the bag to split, spilling hot liquid over the baby.

  3. Oy. Ariella, you reminded me of another story the instructor told about a burn. Ugh. Don’t want to tell it.

  4. Interesting, I nevr thought of a bannanas as a choking hazard

    as far as hot dogs, why give such a young child a hot dig to begin with, regRdless of the danger!

  5. Were texting and cellphones mentioned? Forget about driving. I saw a woman texting who tripped right over a safety barrier that was set up around some men doing work on a sidewalk. The workmen helped her up. Texting while walking, that’s a real danger.

  6. I’m always surprised/shocked when I see how many parents pick up their children from gan by car and then drive them home without putting them inside their safety seats (or putting them in but not fastening their belts…)

    • Anima, I’ve stood where parents leave the school toward the main road and counted 3 or 4 cars where the kids weren’t wearing seatbelts, including babies not strapped in.

  7. what are the penalties for not wearing seatbelts in Israel? In NY it’s over a $100 fine plus 2 points on the license for EACH infraction.

  8. I meant to say, three or four cars in a row. The penalties are fairly high. I recall NIS 250 for the nearly 8yo I wrote about a while back.

  9. Happy Birthday Hannah!
    I know these things are serious and one must really try to be soooo careful, but you just can’t think of every possibility. I am amazed that my children, all 6 made it to adulthood without major mishap. Tfu, tfu, tfu.

  10. if you have a bunch of kids, then you often end up making what all of the kids like, and if all of the kids like hot dogs (or if your husband loves them), then the little ones get them too. Bananas, btw, were a bone of contention between my mom and sister for a long time, until we heard about a child who died of eating one recently. Since then, my mom has been very quiet about my sister’s need to cut bananas up for her little ones.

    cherry tomatoes are a huge choking hazard (my 2-y-o LOVES them!) as are grapes.

    re preparing bottles with boiled water, we had a very specific protocol for it, and moved to bottled water around 3 months and tap water around 6 months – when the kid starts scooting around on the floor and putting everything in his/her mouth anyway. (‘course if you nurse, it never becomes an issue, but the best laid plans of mice and men… sometimes end up with babies not gaining weight and screaming from hunger all night…)

  11. Hot dogs are supposed to be dangerous till around 5!
    Texting: many people can touch text these days, but there is a very hefty fine.
    We were in hospital and in the next bed was an 8 mnth child who was badly scalded when the grandfather drank hot tea with her on his lap.

    Even if we know all the rules, grandparent’s houses can be dangerous. (My MIL used to like to give empty medicine boxes to play with!) They also have lots of medicines around, often not in a safe way.

    • Keren, you’re right about the age. I know a child who stepped in some St. Moritz cleaner that had spilled, it was on his sock and he has a terrible scar. The grandmother didn’t notice it for a while.

  12. Tesyaa, you’re right about texting and walking. The ground was slippery the other day and I fell while texting!

  13. Anima, I live in a Yishuve and the lack of safety here is horendous. While driving my 2 y/o to daycare today I saw three parents driving with their toddlers on their laps!!!! That is not only dangerous for the baby, but for everyone else on the road! All the baby has to do it head but the parent and an accident will happen. I also saw two kids riding bikes w/o helmuts. No-one (almost) puts their kids in seatbelts on the Yishuve,e ven thoough people drive pretty fast here.
    THe worst I saw was a mother driving her jeep with three children on the roof.

  14. oh, don’t get me started on bike helmets. My favorite (not) is when I see a boy biking with one hand, no helmet, holding his black hat in the other hand.

  15. Tesyaa, I saw a young woman with a mitpachat (tichel, scarf) sticking out from the back of her helmet. She was wearing a skirt and on a motorcycle.

  16. What an image –frum, safe, and cool.

  17. I am just speechless!!

    Childhood is dangerous. But we (parents, grandparents, caregivers, etc.) should be helping prevent rather than causing trouble.

    It’s a wonder any of us made it out of childhood alive!

  18. a few years back there was a case in the states
    of an eight year old who choked to death on a hot dog
    in a school cafeteria.

  19. Kayza Zajac says

    That the Ganenet allowed the kid to prepare and feed ANYTHING to her students totally unsupervised is even more scary. So is the idea that dangerous chemicals were so easily available to an unsupervised 6 year old.

  20. Kayza Zajac says

    Do the streets not have lights where you live? If there are street lights, the rule is very simple – if the light is red you do not go. If it is green, you make sure that the car is actually slowing down.If you can’t tell, you wait until the car stops. In other words, it’s never an issue of needing to judge distance.

  21. I don’t know, Kanya. I grew up in a residential neighborhood in the US and there were plenty of intersections without traffic lights.


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