Editor’s Note: City Dads Group blog contributor Gidon Ben-Zvi, a resident of Jerusalem, asked us to reprint this piece he originally wrote for The Algemeiner. “I think your readership would benefit from gaining a glimpse into the lives of average Israeli parents coping with difficult questions as war descends upon them,” he wrote in his note. We agree.
Teaching Your Children About War: An Israeli Father Struggles to Get It Right
It’s 3:36 a.m., on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. I’m tossing and turning right now. Our little country is in a fight for its life. Yes, we’ll prevail. But the cost will be terribly high, almost unbearable.
We keep hearing fighter planes as they jet south. The Lebanon-based Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, is saber rattling. They have launched a couple of dozen rockets into northern Israel. In a skirmish just inside the Israeli border with Lebanon, three Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were killed in a battle with Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.
The Israeli Air Force has started to hit terrorist targets in Lebanon and Syria, and is increasing its bombing runs over Gaza.
My wife and I continue to work, or at least go through the motions, at home. Our children are home as well since all schools have been closed since the Hamas invasion began.
To maintain some semblance of sanity, my wife and I continue to get in our morning jogs. In our neighborhood, folks continue to walk along the Louis Promenade, buses continue to run on Hanassi Boulevard, and street cleaners make their daily rounds. But people’s faces have gone pale, and no one seems to stay out for long.
For the sake of our children, we’re fighting not to be overcome with grief. To keep our children feeling safe, we’re trying our level best to explain what this war’s about. We tell them it’s OK to be nervous and scared. Yes, Hamas is out there. We remind them, however, that the fighter planes — and all those soldiers down south — will protect our little family and all of Israel’s families.
It’s a fine line, acknowledging to your kids the sheer evil that has been perpetrated while encouraging them to try and live through this longest, darkest of days with a sense of hope.
A good father’s job is to be a role model, to establish a set of values for his children to live their lives by. What values am I imparting to my kids right now? What lessons am I trying to teach them to make some kind of sense out of the greatest national tragedy to befall the Jewish people since the Holocaust? How on earth can the murder of babies, entire families, young people, and the rape of women be turned into a teachable moment?
To the best of my ability, I’ve been trying to teach my kids that the big life comes at a big price.
I left a different kind of life in the United States. Had I stayed, I eventually would have started to earn well, saved up some money, padded my 401(k), and become a homeowner — no doubt moving to a well-manicured, secure suburb.
Maybe I should have stayed in Los Angeles.
On second thought, there’s no place else I’d rather be. In life, there are observers and participants. I chose to throw my lot in with the latter, come what may.
Why? Well, this is part of what I try to convey to my young children: you only get one shot at this thing called life. So why not live it gloriously? A life with a sense of mission, a sense of purpose, and — most importantly — joy.
We Jews have managed to create a free society that promotes human dignity and thriving out of malaria-infested swamps. In a part of the world widely mired in ignorance, intolerance, and persecution, Israel shines bright as a beacon of hope, an outpost of enlightenment, a country where all its citizens are limited only by their innate talent and ambition.
When my wife told our neighbor living in the new apartment next to ours that we have no built-in safe room since our building was constructed pre-1990s, she opened her home to our family.
“Come to our place whenever you need to. We’re all in the same boat.”
Our neighbor is an educated, successful, warm-hearted, Muslim woman.
The lesson I’m trying to teach our four little children is that what you believe in is worth fighting for. Israel is worth fighting for. All we can do in response to the savagery is fight the good fight, emboldened by the knowledge that — ultimately — right makes might.
About the author
Gidon Ben-Zvi left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem, where he and his wife are raising their four children to speak fluent English – with an Israeli accent. Ben-Zvi’s work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Algemeiner, American Thinker and Jewish Journal.