Questions Israeli Parents Don’t Ask

It’s hard to live with the notion that tough questions before a war might have prevented the terrible answers afterward

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Girlfriend of Israeli soldier Tal Yifrah mourns as his comrades carry his flag-covered coffin during his funeral in Rishon Letzion near Tel Aviv, July 22, 2014.
FILE PHOTO: Funeral for Israeli soldierCredit: Reuters
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

The questions of the parents of fallen soldiers are always asked too late, when the answers no longer have value. The bereaved parents asked, and the ones who were responsible for their children’s deaths remained silent. They sat there with gray faces and mumbled something about “learning lessons.”

But it’s time for us to accept that lessons are never learned. “We will learn the lessons,” was also heard by the bereaved parents of previous wars and will be heard by the bereaved parents of future wars, as well as by the commissions of inquiry that will follow them.

There are some questions that must be asked. The parents of the fallen did not ask them before the last war, and the parents of living soldiers aren’t asking them before the next one. A thousand deaths in vain and a hundred commissions of inquiry won’t persuade parents to believe that their child died because of arrogance, obtuseness and the negligence of politicians. They want to believe that before their child was sent into battle, all the options were examined and all the alternatives considered; that there was no other way out and no other choice. It’s hard to live with the notion that tough questions before a war might have prevented the terrible answers afterward.

Once we still asked if everything was being done to prevent the next war. Ask the army, they told us then, ask them if it’s prepared. But we don’t have to ask the army, we have to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. When they’ll be asked what they’re doing to prevent the next war, they’ll be silent – justifiably, because the answer is “nothing.”

Nothing? What about the new fighter jets, you might ask, or the expensive submarines and smart bombs? (Thank God they’ve at least stopped with this nonsense about “seeking peace.”) If we would ask them whether the jets, the submarines and the smart bombs will stop the next war, they would answer that they many not prevent war, but they will assure victory. If we’d ask them what they would consider victory, they’ll refuse to answer. They also won’t respond to a question about what kind of country they’d want to have here after this absolute, enormous and wonderful victory. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? Without Arabs? With rabbis instead of judges?

When there are no questions there are no answers. There’s no way they’ll reveal to us what kind of country they’re preparing for us on their own initiative. They won’t reveal this because they don’t think we’re ready to accept the arrival of their dream state. We are too secular and not nationalistic enough to accept it. From their perspective, we’re a lost cause.

They’re relying on the next generation. They see that the parents of the next generation, who are en route to becoming bereaved parents themselves, don’t seem to care that religious nationalism is being injected into their children. Move the Lag Ba’omer vacation and they’ll be outraged; but pour some religious syrup into second-grade textbooks and they’ll say, “What’s wrong with a little tradition?”

Parents don’t believe that in second grade the education minister is already preparing their little angels to chase Palestinians in their villages and to be cruel to them at checkpoints. We accept the chases and checkpoints as inevitabilities, like rain in the winter and sunshine in the summer. We’ve stopped asking the big question of what we’re doing there altogether.

We would be pleased to know that we’re there for “security reasons.” You don’t argue with security. When they tell us “security reasons,” we stand at attention. We are still concerned about “Auschwitz borders,” even though missiles have reached Haifa from areas much further than the “Auschwitz borders.”

It’s not security, it’s shame. We’re embarrassed to admit that we don’t have the strength to deal with 350,000 settlers who have us by the balls. We’ve capitulated, but we have excuses: “The situation is irreversible,” and “there’s no one to talk to,” so there’s nothing to be done. We’ve capitulated, but so have they. Fifty years in the territories haven’t gotten us even one millimeter closer to believing in our right to the land, and have given us nothing other than internal disintegration and the loss of our moral path.

But disintegration and the loss of our path don’t interest them. They prefer to say, 'Yalla, just send your children to protect us and shut up.' Okay, they don’t actually say it yet, they know we’ll take it wrong. But wait, there’s time. Bennett still hasn’t finished his work with the children, and the military hasn’t yet been taken over by the nationalists. They’re afraid we’ll complain and ask, 'What is this here, Iran?'

But yes, we’re on our way there. In around a month we’ll be celebrating our first 50 years en route. They won’t be able to convince us with the parades that Israel Harel suggested, but maybe they can influence the little ones in second grade. They already won’t ask questions, they’ll just recite the answers.

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