Sometimes, in Israel, the conversations you overhear are extraordinary. Sometimes, they break your heart.
I was standing in a beautiful overview, looking out on to the northern border of Israel. The hills of Lebanon look the same as the hills of Israel – the Hezbollah flag visible in the village nearest the border the only giveaway that the land there is very different.
The overview was built in memory of Major Benaya Rhein who was killed in the Second Lebanon War. Throughout the war Benaya went on numerous missions to rescue other soldiers. On August 12th 2006 Benaya and his crew were on another rescue mission when their tank was hit by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile. They were all killed.
It was from this breathtaking spot that Benaya and his crew went on their final mission. This spot overlooking the land that they loved, the land that they died to preserve for their family, friends and the generations to come – other people’s children, not theirs.
I stood there, listening to the recording of Benaya’s mother talking about her son, his legacy and the land that he loved. As the recording ended, a father with two small sons entered the lookout.
The younger of the two boys was full of questions.
He had not heard the recording I had just listened to. I don’t think he noticed the stone dedicating the lookout to Benaya.
His questions were all his own, from his own knowledge, experience and understanding of the world.
“Daddy, where was the war?”
“Over there, son.” answered the father.
“But I can’t see anything that looks like fighting. Can we go there?”
The father sighed before he answered: “Because we are at war with the people there. We are trying hard not to fight with them and hopefully, they will try not to fight with us either.”
A different child, in a different country, might have asked: “What’s a war daddy?” Or “Why do they fight us?” Not this boy, not in this country. He already knew.
A different father, in a different country, might have answered his son differently. There was a time when Israeli parents told their children: “Don’t worry, by the time you grow up you won’t have to be a soldier. There will be peace and we won’t need the army anymore.” At the time, they said it because they believed it. Because they hoped and they prayed that their children would not have to experience what they had experienced.
Israeli parents don’t say that to their children anymore.