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Home > Family & Lifecycles > Trains and Tanks

Trains and Tanks
Teaching an 8-year-old about a 3,000-year-old conflict

Staff Writer
November 27, 2000

Driving through town last week, minding my own business, I was content with the silence that wafted from the back seat. My eight-year-old son had found a moment of quietude and his never ending, thought provoking questions, for the moment, were stilled. Moment like this are rare, so I take full advantage of them when they happen.

As we approached the flashing arms of a railroad crossing, I had no clue that this calm was about to be shattered with a sonic boom. My thoughtless wanderings while waiting for the train to pass collided with my son's glee.

"Mom! Look! Tanks! They are going to war!!!"

I felt my head shake in disbelief upon hearing this, and I looked up with a start. Was this my son, the boy who said "conscientious objector" before he was three years old and whom I disallow from playing any games with representative violence excited to see the weapons of death and destruction marching off to war?

Crossing before us was an army convoy with several military tanks winding along the tracks before us. "What do you mean, honey? Tanks going to war? What war?" thinking, of course, U.S. troops are not currently involved in any conflict and he must be simply projecting.

"The war in Israel, mom! The tanks are going to Israel! Whoooooooooheeee!"

When I was his age, the Vietnam war was the military action that filled our concerns. Somehow, as the events unfolded, my parents shielded me through restricted television and newspaper viewing, and keeping my days filled with childhood distraction. As a result, I don't remember Vietnam-I only recall what I have learned since growing up.

A sudden wave of sadness for lost innocence filled me as I pulled my thoughts together to address this immediate situation. I had no idea what to say. When in doubt, my Bubbe would say, ask a question.

"What war in Israel?" I asked, as I rolled my own eyes at my own desperate lack of creativity and the stupidity of that question. It turned out to be the exact question needed to find out that my precious son doesn't have a blessed clue about the conflict in Israel.

It seems as the circumstances of the fallout of military action don't seem to apply in the Middle East right now. I soon learned that my son simply wanted Jews to win, and was under the impression that the Jews never shot or hurt anyone who "didn't deserve it." Being where Jews don't want someone to be causes one to deserve to be shot. And the Israelis never, ever, hurt children, or women, or innocent bystanders. Oh, and the Palestinian forces only target children and women-usually at the Kotel.

I could not believe that these words were coming from my son's lips. I quickly reminded him that while he may support Israel, even the Israeli army is affected by the rules of war. Innocent people often get hurt, and sometimes die, and living in fear is deeply affecting to everyone. War is never a good thing, even if it is aimed to have a positive end.

I told him of the numerous "cease-fires" called by the leaders, only to be soon broken by the armies and militant individuals. I explained that unless people are willing to listen, no one's shouts will be heard.

I reminded him of why we spill drops of wine at the Passover Seder, that, even in our escape from Egypt, we, as Jews, take a moment to remember the suffering of our oppressors.

I fear my words may have fell upon deaf eight-year-old ears, however, and I am left to pray that someday he will remember what I've said. I can't prevent my heart from sinking as we pull through the now cleared railroad tracks as his voice pipes from the back seat. "Ok. Maybe tanks can hurt a lot of people, but I know that the Jews have good aim!"

©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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