With each year that goes by, the Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars becomes harder and harder for me.
And my sons are still young, I still have a few good years ahead before having to lose sleep over them again.
And yet, each year the morning of the Memorial Day fills my eyes and throat with tears, hotter and more searing than those of the previous year.
Only this year I realized, through conversations with students and during the siren, what it is that tears me up so from within. It’s that I’m not thinking of fallen friends (I’ve been almost unbelievably lucky, in Israeli reality, and have yet lost any close relatives or friends to war), but of my students standing in front of me. Of these overgrown kids, who on the next Memorial Day might already be part of our never-ending list of failures. Part of an accusing, shaming list – you were unable to stop it, unable to protect us.
I stand in front of them and feel ashamed. Ashamed for the harsh world we are sending them out to, for the fact that we raise them to protect us, after we failed to protect them. Ashamed for not having done everything that is humanly possible to protect my children, our children.
I stand in front of them and ask myself what more can I do to better prepare them for what lies ahead? How could I teach them at one and the same time to take responsibility, to contribute, to risk themselves for others, and maybe even get hurt, or hurt others, and on the other hand to remain human beings, to maintain their critical thinking, their aspiration for peace and for change? How might I educate them to carry out, on the one hand, the most decisive and most absolute of orders, and on the other hand to keep seeing the complexity, the whole, to see reality with all its shades of grey?
We teach children of the “other”, of the ability to see and understand them as a whole, separate, human being, and then send them out to fight all who are “others”. I so desperately want to continue and believe our ability – and theirs – to contain this contradiction, but the reality of these past few weeks – including the harsh, zealous, and confrontational discourse that developed among my teacher colleagues – places big question marks on this belief.
I sit and write, knowing that at any moment I might receive word that another name was added to my list of shame and guilt. At this moment it is only a question of when and who. But the only question that really bothers me these days is, will we know how to prevent the next names? Will we know how to prevent the alienation and hatred among ourselves; will we learn how to see the other first of all as a human being, and only then as the “other”?
I dare not pray for peace at this moment in time. All I dare ask is that the next Memorial Day will not be harder for me than the one that had passed.