“Why do you have to go to work early?” That’s what my 3-year old asked yesterday as I tried to speed up the morning rush to get everyone ready, while my husband was already on his way to miluim (reserve duty in the IDF).
I have a policy of being honest with my children, both because I respect them and because I know that they’ll find out sooner or later anyway. “Mommy has to make sure that the whole world knows what’s happening to people living in the southern part of the country.”
“What’s happening to them?”
“Someone’s being really mean to them.”
How do I explain to him that tens of thousands of Israelis are hiding in bomb shelters as we speak because they committed the crime of being Jewish? That seven decades after Israel’s independence (or to him, Israel’s birthday) we are fighting for our lives in the face of a cruel enemy who uses its own people as human shields at every opportunity?
I don’t. I can’t. My naïve vision of how I’ll educate my children just went down the toilet. I refuse to throw away his innocence so quickly. I’ll wait a bit longer.
I have the privilege to do so, unlike the mothers of Gaza-border communities a few kilometers away from my comfortable Jerusalem home. They have had to explain to their children every other week why they can’t sleep in their own beds, why their baths can’t take more than a few minutes, why they can’t go to school, or to their friends’ houses, or to the park. But despite this absurd situation, they are telling their children that this is a passing nightmare, and that one day there will be peace, that one day there must be peace.
The children of Gaza too, at no fault of their own, do not know the comfort of a normal night’s sleep. I wonder what their mothers are telling them? I imagine that some speak about the need to end the violence, but it’s more likely that decades of indoctrination and incitement have produced a different generation of maternal behavior. Terrorists have mothers too, and while fathers hold the dominant familial role in some Middle Eastern societies, one doesn’t ignore the whispers of the woman who bore him, not deep down inside.
So that all of our children can sleep tonight, I urge my neighbors in Gaza when they tuck their children in tonight to consider how their words might help them keep them a bit longer in their own beds. Their children and ours.