No good deed

Gina Seebachan poses with two books in the Playseum. Photo by Julian Sadur
Gina Seebachan poses with two books in the Playseum.
Photo by Julian Sadur

The owner of an indoor children’s play area with locations in Bethesda and Washington, D.C., found out the hard way last week that even playtime can be political. Gina Seebachan was watching the news emanating from Israel and Gaza when her 9-year-old son asked, “ ‘Mom, what is a bomb shelter?’ ”

Seebachan, who owns the Playseum, a storefront filled with dress-up clothes, art supplies, books, a supermarket and even live rabbits, wanted to do something to reach out to Israel children. “These are kids who are caught in the middle. In my mind, as a mom, I thought ‘What can I do?’ Every kid deserves love.”

She decided to hold a special Israel-themed event and sent out an email blast titled “The Playseum loves Israel.” She invited “all of our Jewish family and friends” to come listen to a story, do an art project and write a letter to an Israeli child to be delivered to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. Seebachan said she immediately received one positive reply.

However, that message was soon followed by a string of “not very pleasant” emails and phone calls, she said. One email called her “so stupid” and went on to declare, “Israel is a country. Palestine is not.” Others demanded to know why she supported Israelis and not the Palestinian people.

Although Seebachan, a Christian, said the event was never meant to be political, she found herself smack in the middle of the Israel-Hamas conflict. “Honestly, I probably should have put a lot more thought into it,” she said. Nevertheless, Seebachan said she is going forward with the letter-writing sessions. Her peace plan for Playseum patrons: separate letter writing sessions.

Friday afternoons from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., local children can write to their Palestinian counterparts. Kids can write to Israeli youth Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is scheduled to run until the end of this month.

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Julian Sadur contributed to this article.

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