Alice goes to a Jewish camp. It was a fluke that she wound up there. The Jewish camp is affiliated with her Jewish school - it’s also kind of a fluke that she went there - so all of her best friends go to this camp, and the price is great, and they have taught her how to swim and to do cartwheels, and she is insanely happy and confident as a result, so what else could I possibly hope for? The fact that it is a Jewish camp was never a selling point for us.
Last camp visiting day parents were serenaded with Jewish folk singing - I’ve Got Ruach (spirit)! and Shalom Alechem were sung on the top of little four year old lungs while parents ate watermelon and fanned themselves with programs of the day’s activities. It was casual, and frankly she could have been singing Old Mac Donald and I would have been equally moved by the content of each song.
Tonight I asked Alice if they are talking about what’s going on in Israel at camp. She paused and said “Eitan died”.
I said “What? Oh my goodness! Your friend Eitan did not die. What do you mean?”.
She happens to have a friend named Eitan, who is Israeli, so I was really thrown for a second.
"No, not my Eitan. The Eitan soldier in Israel. My friend Eitan is too little to die, right mommy?"
I whispered “Thank goodness he is safe”
I couldn’t answer her squarely because if he was a Palestinian boy living in Gaza, he would not be too little to die.
How do you talk about these complicated and devastating matters with a five year old who will dress in blue and white for Israel Day, wave an Israeli flag and then eat Popsicles before getting on the bus home? She loves Israel for no reason other than people told her to.
Someone is talking about the mess in Israel at camp, and I can only hope that they are talking about it in a way that includes the ugly, the heroic, the brave, the tragic and everything else I know I have missed. I am struggling to find the right words to talk to her, and I can only hope that other adults around her feel equally shaky in what to say.
I read my Facebook feed, and see my friends posts that say “Read This - All You Need to Know About What Is Happening In Israel” linked to an article from the Jerusalem Times. Others link to articles criticizing the Israeli Military for using advanced combat strategy on civilian populations. Each side comes at this conflict with so much conviction as if their Facebook opinions had any sort of real impact on the outcome.
I am lying in the Dead Sea covered in mud. None of us know anything, and none of us know what to say to our children. I hope that by the time Israel Day happens at camp, there is peace.