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Little Girl Asks Big Question
The scene: Sunday morning. Jerusalem Bus 13 winds its way towards town as I take my kids to school. On the radio, a news/talk show is discussing King Abdullah's latest interview and whether there'll be a war this summer.
But my mind is on more immediate things: catching the next bus, work matters, and regret for not downing a coffee before rushing out the door.
I tune the radio out of my headspace.
We get off at our usual stop -- which happens to be across the street from the Mt. Herzl military cemetery. My son points to some policemen and soldiers milling around flags and setting up barricades for what was last night's nationally broadcast Remembrance Day ceremony. He then looks around the sky, vainly trying to get a fix on one of those helicopters we often hear, but never quite see.
And then Rivka, my daughter, almost-nine, jars me with a question.
"Abba, will there be a war?"
Huh? When did my little girl start paying attention to talk radio? Is she looking for reassurance, or is this how she becomes a news junkie -- just like her father?
Not wanting to alarm Rivka, I tell her I don't think there will be a war this summer, but there are people, like the king and some of the callers, who are concerned -- and they're talking about why. She then asks, "If there is a war, where will it be?" There's some kind of mature seriousness -- beyond Rivka's years -- in her voice.
"Where will it be? That's a good question, Rivka'le. I don't know." What else can I say? The teachable moment ends with the arrival of our bus -- crowded and loud as usual.
David Ben-Gurion once said, "Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist." He was right. Miracles do happen. Jews celebrating 62 years of independence tonight is one of them.
But 22,684 soldiers and security personnel have also died defending the land since 1860, and they teach us something about miracles too. (1860 is when the Jews of the Holy Land began settling other parts of the country outside the main communities of Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed). The fallen we honor today are 22,684 sobering reminders that we're not supposed to rely on miracles.
My daughter's growing up. Don't I owe it to her to continue that conversation?
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Immediately after the Yom Kippur war (1973) the government issued a booklet to every citizen listing the names of all who fell.
We were olim living in a high rise in Haifa. My wife went up to the roof of our building alone, with her booklet. In her broken Hebrew she sat and cried as she read every name on the list of sons of Israel who had given their lives during that terrible war. She spent many hours alone on that rooftop crying her heart out as she prounounced each name. After the first reading, she began all over again.
david l. israel (author)
The Day the Thunderbird Cried