Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Mother Asks for a Different Promise

Sometimes you read an opinion piece that makes you nod your head in agreement. Sometimes you read one that makes you say to yourself, "Yes!". Occasionally you read one that is so well written that you are jealous that you didn't write it yourself.

This past weekend I read the Makor Rishon newspaper which included a piece by Orly Goldkling that made me jealous. Not only do I agree with everything she says, but she writes from the perspective of a clear-eyed, both- feet-firmly-on the ground woman and mother. This is the type of "Kol HaNashi" I can get behind. I didn't write it - but I took the liberty of doing the next best thing - I translated it into English for my readers. (The emphasis is mine).

[For those of you unfamiliar with Israeli culture, Goldkling refers to the lyrics of songs by Yehoram Gaon, and one specifically called "HaMilchama HaAchrona" - "The Last War". This sentimental song is about an IDF soldier singing to a little girl that the current war will be the last.]

"You promised me that this would be the last war. You described for me the heroism of the fighters and the injured and the dead; the communications officers and the medics and doctors; you told me about the tank soldiers and the pilots that broke through the fierce fighting; you sang about the destruction of the mortar shells and the missile and anti-aircraft fire. More than thirty years ago you started with this idea, and accompanied your words of promise with a sweet and heartwarming tune, and you sang over and over about every injury and every war, and that now, in just a little bit, this would really and truly be the last war.

I didn't ask you to do this, but you promised. In your eyes, I was still your little girl, maybe even wearing a red dress and two braids, who stood and asked "why?". But I didn't ask. And I didn't believe you. I knew that it wasn't up to you at all. But I thought it was nice of you to promise all the same.

To be honest, to my little girl's mind, I was a bit surprised by your promises. A warrior is supposed to promise me protection, to watch over me around the clock, to fight for me always, in this war and in the next. But you gave me a loving and forgiving smile, as if you wanted to say: what do you understand, you are just a little girl.

Afterwards another war broke out, and another. And it didn't matter to me at all that you made me promises. Because this wasn't a song that I wrote. You wrote it in my name. That is what adults like you do for little girls like me who don't understand. Write protest songs in their name, and teach them about peace and doves with olive branches in their mouths. And you love to be embarrassed for the fighters that didn't keep their promises.

But now I am not a little girl anymore, and the words of your songs from thirty years ago play in my mind, and suddenly I am furious. How did you dare to promise me that there wouldn't be another war? Where did you get the nerve? How did you turn the heroes of the tanks and the paratroopers who wanted to protect me into an "army of peace" right in the middle of a war?

I have a little girl of my own now, and she even has a red dress and two braids. But when she asks "why?" and all of the characters of your imagination stand pale-faced and mute, I know the answer. You don't have to be a security expert to understand it, and you don't need to be a fan of Bibi to recognize the truth of what Netanyahu says: "If the Arabs put down their weapons, there won't be another war. If Israel puts down their weapons, there won't be an Israel anymore".

You knew this answer thirty years ago, but you chose to take a little girl's question and make it into a symbol. This symbol is now shooting at us, and is hurting and killing thousands.

I didn't ask you why then, but now I am asking, dear old man. Why did you really promise me all that? Based on what exactly? Because you really wanted it? Because everyone really wanted it? Because you read S. Yizhar or David Grossman, and you learned to recognize the pain of the enemy, and you saw that he, too, is a human being?

But now I am a mother. And your assumption that you see the pain of both sides reminds me of my little one who looks through big binoculars, but can't see through them using both eyes at once. When he looks through one side, he as to close the other eye, so that in essence the other side doesn't exist. You learned to see the pain of the other so much, to have mercy on him to the depths of your soul, that you stopped seeing my, and your own, side.

I see the tank soldiers, the pilots and the paratroopers that came back from the battles, and the Golani brigades that your generation didn't even notice and I ask, no demand, that you will promise both me and my little girl, that when there is another war you will always go out and fight it. Promise her that you still remember the reason why we are gathered here on this injured land; promise her that you still know what you have to do to ensure her safety; promise her that there won't be any more questioning songs, but only ones with clear answers; promise her that you will open your beautiful and tired eyes and see the horizon that you saw at one time, before the dust of delusion blurred your vision, and promise that you will fight for her, so that she, before anyone else, will live in peace."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is so frigging whiny. How about Jews who love Eretz Yisrael stop begging for protection and start protecting ourselves.

11:36 PM, August 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, she writes what a lot of us feel.

3:56 AM, August 28, 2006  
Blogger bec said...

that actually made me teary.
what's sad is that as jews we are standing up for our right to exist as a nation (what other nation has to defend their right to exist????) and we still cannot make the promise of peace to our children.
but then again, isn't that part of being a jew? aren't we here to remind a hedonistic world of morality? and isn't this a world that rejects that morality? when all of the other nations rejected the torah, and we were the only ones to accept it, we also accepted the responsibility of raising our children in a world that would be hostile to us. and so, as much as we all wish that peace could be promised and fulfilled, it can't be, and sadly, many of us who were once the idealistic little girls in braids, have grown into skeptical women, wondering what to tell our own children.
thank you so much for translating and posting that.

5:45 AM, August 28, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

anonymous - that is what the IDF is for - to protect us

jeremayakovka - I agree

bec - I personally think that there won't be peace here until Mashiach comes. Fighting wars will always be part of our life - and it is obvious that Hashem wants it that way.

7:56 AM, August 29, 2006  
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