מתוך הסרטון

"Bakum" is the name of the army base to which all new recruits arrive..."

A few weeks ago, my daughter Danielle and I (she is 4.5 years old according to my count, 5 or 6 according to hers) sat down together to watch video clips on the computer. She asked to see clips of Rinat Gabai, a celebrated figure among the children. I knew this clip from my friends’ many criticisms of it on Facebook.

The clip is part of a program where a meeting takes place between Rinat, who plays a young girl, and a soldier—the grandson of “Grandpa Tuvia.” The meeting starts with her tell him how fun it is for him to be a soldier. My hairs stood on end; somebody is interfering with the education of my child, I thought to myself… Later on, another child so envies the soldier and wants to be like him, a combat soldier. As is fitting an educational video, the soldier explains to the children a few key terms such as “private,” and “recruitment center.” Afterwards, they go to visit Grandpa Tuvia, the soldier’s grandfather.

מתוך הסרטון

"What, wouldn't you like to recruit to the army?"

At this point things become a bit more complicated. Grandpa Tuvia is proud of his son who was a little boy in his arms and is now serving in the IDF; the child envies the soldier and wants to be drafted already (“the army is the most fun”) but Rinat tells him that she doesn’t necessarily want to become a soldier. She wants there to be peace by the time that she is 18, so that there will be no army. “No, no, I hope not” the child/future soldier answers. She answers him “What, you don’t want peace?” He answers: “Rinat, of course I want there to be peace—but I don’t want them to dismantle the army.” Rinat also had a hard time recognizing the former child in the crew-cut soldier standing in front of her. Grandpa Tuvia explains that “the army is not a kindergarten, and war is not child’s play.” The story ends with everyone singing Uzi Khitman’s “I was born for peace.”

That day, Danielle and I sat together in a restaurant in Ashkelon. She explained to be me that a Mitzvah is not fun. When I asked her what she meant, I understood that she meant that the army (Tzava). I quickly explained the difference to her. Afterwards we raised our glasses together, and she said her blessing: “May there be peace and may there be no army.” Later, in the Havdala at her father’s house, she said another blessing: “May there be peace.” This is not the first time that I spoke to her of peace, soldiers and wars. This topic repeats itself and challenges us all the time. But this time, when Rinat said this, it seemed to have additional weight.

All these events raised questions for me, among my endless motherly political contemplations. On the one hand, it was very easy for me (and many others, as I’ve mentioned) to be shocked by this clip where, God protect us, a soldier introduces the children to their future as soldiers. On the other hand, the message that came through is different from the message one finds in today’s kindergarten’s schools and in society in general. The saying that “when you’ll be older, there will be no army,” is gone. You don’t hear it anymore. In its place, a mother can now hear of how her child “crawls like a commando,” or “look how they walk together, like soldiers.” A discourse whose center is “how fun it is to be a soldier” is much more acceptable today.

But more thoughts went through my mind. I could have stopped that clip as soon as the soldier appeared and explained to Danielle how not fun it is to serve in the army. But then she would not have seen the end, the more complex message there, and would not have received that certain kind of affirmation for things we spoke of so often together.

These thoughts bother me constantly. My daughter goes to an urban kindergarten. Among the things that disturb is are that they raise the flag and sing HaTikvah every day (some of the new things). This week, I was there as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant. The children sang HaTikvah. I, meanwhile, was silent. I can’t but think of the relationship between my efforts to educate my daughter to have certain values, and the undermining of the kindergarten teacher’s authority. I couldn’t but be witness to the tension between the less-than-acceptable values I taught and my daughter’s need both now and in the future to feel as a part of society.

I have an even more distressing question concerning her staying in the education system. On the one hand, I resist the idea of private schools on principle and am filled with criticism toward the various exclusive “Art Schools,” each one with their own “selection process.” On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fact that I really don’t want my daughter to study in the Education Ministry’s factory schools. In Ashkelon, the only alternative (yes, the euphemism for private schools) is one such Art School. And I want her to study there, she will be more protected there. If I had lived in the Beer Sheva or Jerusalem area, I would have wanted her to study in a democratic or bilingual school, somewhere where alternative thinking is more acceptable.

These questions came up for me when mine and my daughter’s attendance at the annual Human Rights March became a tradition. For the first time, I insisited on taking her with me, even though she could stay with her grandparents and her lovely cousins and have fun with them. I tried to explain to her about the March. I believe that my success was minimal at best. After all, she just wanted a snack, got tired, and asked to sit on the side. I was in a hurry to reach the main rally. During the first performances she fell asleep, and I felt enormous guilt stabbing at me. Was this too soon, this tradition? Was there a point to dragging her to this, to Haifa in the dark, in the rain, waiting for a taxi in Nahariya. But this is a different story. Towards the end she did enjoy herself—but because she played with a friend who she met at a previous rally.

I can’t stop thinking about how we can overcome these contradictions and tensions between our personal and political lives. How do I educate my daughter about the values I believe in without hurting her ability to be part of society which she is indeed a part of? How can I develop her critical thinking, but still teach her to be polite and respect the kindergarten teacher’s authority, or later, the school teacher’s? How do I pass down my message without burdening her? Our reality is so frustrating, so difficult. It’s not for nothing that people choose to shut their eyes, to avoid looking at it directly, that they choose the easier way that fulfills their need to belong, to be inwardly strong, to belong to a nation, with a flag, symbols, pride. How do I deal with this situation, where there are sirens, and she needs to know that someone is watching over her? And to always, always explain to her that of course, the army remains strong? How can I teach her that sometimes we are the unjust ones in this whole story, without telling her that we are “the bad ones.” And that the Arabs, though we have many wars with them, they are not always bad. And yes, although there was a Pharaoh, the Greeks and Hitler and all the other criminals that she hears about, that not everyone wants to come and destroy us? How do I educate her to think critically, to be an activist, and send her to a private school?

Meanwhile, I try to gently explain to her what I can. I teach her the words of HaTikvah but I don’t sing along. And I still don’t analyze it for her. Slowly, with many mistakes along the way, but with hope that something will trickle down. Why in the end, on the psychologist’s couch, I will be guilty of everything anyway.