The Sons Garden: Stepping on Collective Toes

My quiet Ramat Gan neighborhood is having a makeover, and, as part of the improvements, one of the street corners, which used to be an unkempt tiny garden, has turned into a beautiful playground for toddlers.

Soon there was an announcement in the community Facebook that the town was looking for a new name for the playground, which in the past was called The Sons Garden (In honor of the fallen soldiers from the community).

I assumed that this request in accordance with the changing of times and suggested few suitable names. Then we got the invitation to the ribbon-cutting celebration of the new Sons Garden. I wonder why the town’s officials requested a new one if they never meant to change the old one.

Although it will take several more years until the tiny patrons of the playground could actually read, they probably can already inquire if only little boys are allowed to play in The Sons Garden.

Of course, there was no need  to give up  the old name altogether, but the town could have placed a prominent commemorative plaque honoring the bravery of the Sons and added  a more optimistic name, like the Garden of Hope, Life, or The Children’s Garden for the toddlers who use the  playground. This could have been a meaningful way to honor the soldiers and the life that they bequeathed us.

I posted a question on Facebook asking the women, and mothers, of our community how they felt about keeping the old name. Unfortunately it turned out to be my first personal experience of Facebook shaming, and I was totally unprepared for it.

As a mother of girls, I expected other mothers to feel like me and to express a wish for a more inclusive name. However, none of those who took the time to respond to my post did. On the contrary, they were adamant about keeping the old name.

I was accused of being unpatriotic, of not honoring the legacy of my country, of giving a bad name to the feminist movement. When I wrote back, claiming that those toddlers who frequent the playground should be allowed few carefree years, before they join us in sharing the burden of our history, I was accused of being a traitor.

Reading the responses I suddenly realized that, naively and without meaning to, I stepped on collective toes of my community.

It seems that for a whole generation that grew up in our neighborhood, that piece of unkempt green was always The Sons Garden, it was part of their childhood and their history. While I believed that a new and hopeful name could be a the right tribute to the sacrifice of the soldiers, my neighbors interpreted my suggestion as an attempt to erase their past.

There were many other enraged responses, and finally, out of respect, I removed my post.

On Monday, on Adar 11th, the movement Women Wage Peace, will go up north to pay tribute to the legacy of Tel Hai and the pioneers who defended that post 96 years ago. They will connect the theme of sacrifice of past heroes, like Josef Trumpeldor, with the vision of peace, using the motto: “Good to live for our country.”

Since its inception in 2014, shortly after the end of Operation Protective Edge, the grassroots movement Women Wage Peace, has attempted to gather under its umbrella as many women as possible, and, in doing so, purposely remained within the consensus focusing only on universal, seemingly non controversial, values.

I belong to Women Wage Peace, and until this morning I was certain that the motto “Good to live for our country” was another universal truth, and that all Israeli women, especially mothers, could identify with this statement.

But now, after the blunder regarding the name of the tiny playground in Ramat Gan, I am more skeptic and realize that even within my immediate community, there is still a lot that I can’t understand.

Artist: Anat Negev
About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.
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