Haredi schools begin the school year a couple of weeks ahead of the rest of the country, and accordingly there were many haredi children who on Sunday were attending school for the first time. Crowded into the small desks alongside them at the Dibrot Moshe school in Jerusalem’s Har Nof religious neighborhood were President Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
It is customary in haredi schools to begin the first lesson in the first grade not only with the teaching of the alphabet but also with the first book of the Torah, Genesis. Haredi children have a somewhat unique way of learning the alphabet so that they can read the Torah. Honey is spread on each of the letters and the children lick the honey in order to symbolically taste the sweetness of the Torah. While Rivlin and Barkat participated in the lesson, they didn’t get to taste the honey. In fact, it hasn’t been a particularly sweet year for either of them.