“Just because you are upset about the kidnapping doesn’t mean you have to take it out on your own kids,” cried my daughter this past Friday afternoon. I didn’t even realize I was snapping at anyone. To me, I sounded calm. Alright, maybe a bit assertive. But aggressive? I was trying so hard to be calm, to focus on preparing for Shabbat, on hosting our guest who was with us for just one more day. Trying so hard to function when all I could feel was the pain of the mothers, whose sons – my own son’s age – were kidnapped by arab terrorists.
Many anglos have a hard time withe culture differences between Israel and our western upbringing. In Canada, the only exile I experienced, time is not a luxury, people wait in line, wait their turn, and are very respectful in how they talk to each other.
We didn’t grow up with terror on their doorsteps.
The kidnapping of three boys last week has brought us all together, united and together in ways that don’t exist in any other country. The prayers, the packages to soldiers, the visits to the families. Those and more are part of the good side of our unique nation. But there is also the tough side. Until Operation Homat Magen almost 14 years ago, terror was a regular part of Israeli life, as was war. My anxiety and agitation on Friday were understandable, even if not excusable.
Veteran Israelis grew up with kidnappings, bus bombings, katyusha rockets from Lebanon or Syria, bus attacks, Olympic team kidnappings and murders, massacres of schoolchildren on a tiyul, plane hijackings, and, of course, “hefetz hashud” warnings that are very real. When we read teh headlines from “olden days”, it is amazing that anyone who grew up in Israel then is sane, never mind mild-mannered.
This week, we are living what Jews in Israel have been living for one hundred years. In peaceful times, we still tend to question abandoned packages or arab workers, but for the most part, we are at ease. As Olim, we grew up with that luxury. But we must remember that our neighbours and bus drivers, our children’s teachers and the school custodian, grew up with their nerves constantly raw.
We don’t know how many of the impatient people we condemn so quickly lost friends or relatives in wars and terror attacks. How many nights they did not hear from their fathers up in Lebanon or down on the Egyptian border; back before there were cellphones, when the Army Radio program “Kol-a Shel Ima” was a soldier’s only chance – for weeks – to tell his mother that he is okay.
Obviously, I should be trying harder to talk nicely to my children, to do my crying, and then come back to them with a patient smile. But , when I lapse, it is a reminder to me of the stress that has been part and parcel of rebuilding our nation, and be more forgiving AND more respectful of those who grew up in a much harsher world.