Monday, November 27, 2006

The Writing on the Wall

Every year those of us with children in Bnei Akiva (from fourth grade to12th) endure - um, I mean enjoy what is called Shabbat Irgun. This day sums up a month of work by the kids to get geared up for the year. They have "morale sessions" (basically singing at the top of their lungs about how great their group is), they prepare a skit for the Motzei Shabbat extravaganza, and they scrape off the paint, do a whitewash, and repaint their portion of the wall in the Bnei Akiva "snif" (clubhouse).

Each year the parents are invited in to see these walls. Each time I go I get a sense of what the kids are thinking about (or at least what their teenage advisors are thinking about).

Last November most of the paintings were colored black or orange, and referred to the destruction of Gush Katif and the hope that we will return there. Some of the more philosophical groups wrote about hope and despair and faith - with quotations from various sources.

This year there was a different feel. The war in Lebanon and in Gaza took precedence. Some groups had collages of religous soldiers painted on the wall. Some used military "accessories" to showcase each kid's name in the group - one group used the "kumta" - the beret, each one with a different child's name. My son's group used dogtags. It certainly was a queasy sight seeing my ten year old's name, with a number that he just made up (at least he didn't put his teudat zehut number, that would have been too much).

Another group painted the following slogan in their space:

"Shalom zeh hazman bein milchama l'milchama" - "Peace is the time between one war and another."

Sobering, yes.

At the same time, though, I found this slogan to be somewhat encouraging. Not because I love war, G-d forbid. The idea of my sons fighting scares me to death.

I found it comforting, though, that although these kids are only teenagers, they understand what it takes to live here in Israel. These are normal, happy adolescents, who worry about pimples and popularity just like others their age the world over. But at the same time they know that living in their homeland takes sacrifice, and they are willing to make it.

If everyone here in Israel saw things this clearly we would all be better off.


Blogger bec said...

for a while, i was thinking that maybe i wasn't aliyah material because the thought of my children possibly having to go off to war one day is terrifying to me. (as it is, i'm sure, to every parent who must send their kids into the army.) i'm glad you put this up, it helps to see that it doesn't matter how long you live in israel, that these concerns are very real, and that they don't diminish your love for israel or contradict your beliefs.

6:35 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

bec - I used to think that way too, that at some point in the future I would learn the magic secret of the native Israeli. After the past war, I realized that there is no secret. Every parent is terrified - but they send their kids in anyway. This just makes me admire the average Israeli even more.

7:27 AM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger Sarah said...

I wrote a reaction to this post and put it up on my blog:

Kol tuv!

Chayyei Sarah

2:39 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger tafka PP said...

The implication here isn't that you love war as much as you truly believe that there is only one way to realistically look at life in Israel.

It isn't a contest, WBM- Israeli kids from the far left to the far right all end up fighting and dying for the state and calling themselves Zionist Israelis. Most of the movements (yes, even the ones on the "left") are not, contrary to popular opinion, teaching kids to sing Kumbaya with Hamas, rather be realistic as to the reality. That said, hope for a different reality never killed anyone. For that reason, it is sad to see that the BA kids have chosen to stop hoping.

5:45 PM, November 29, 2006  
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