Yesterday was quite an interesting day with my children. In the morning, while they are getting ready for school, I will often take a look at email and at CNN to see what's happening in the world. I was talking to Josh about the shooting in Arizona, when the kids started asking questions. While we don't go out of our way to share tragic news with the kids, we certainly don't hide these events from our older boys. Particularly when things happen here in Israel, we find that it's impossible to shield them. I will purposefully not tell them about a terrorist attack or something that occurred the day before - and then they'll come home from school bursting with far more information than I even had to offer myself. I've learned that it's better to confront these events head on and to talk through the facts with them so that they don't get sidelined by the gossip and misinformation.
That's life in Israel.
So, as they listened in to the events that occurred at the supermarket in Arizona yesterday, they were completely confused. Why, Yehuda wanted to know, hadn't someone standing nearby simply killed the shooter? When I explained that few people in America carry guns on them, they said, "Why?"
(Pictured are U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, in an undated photo. Mrs Giffords is fighting for her life in an Arizona hospital after being shot in the head at point blank range. May she have a speedy recovery.)
These are children who know that terrorist-driven tractors get stopped by heroic citizens who happen to be walking by. Terrorists killing high school students get stopped, not by the police who have been called to the scene, but by a young man who hears the gunshots and comes running. This is their life.
Our children are being raised with the understanding that they will need to know how to use guns and that they will, undoubtedly, carry them to protect themselves and those around them. It's quite a responsibility that they are being raised with - but it's their reality.
I was struck by their perspective and by how incredibly different it is to be growing up here than in America. Why, Yehuda wanted to know, didn't someone come to the rescue and kill the shooter? He simply could not understand.
Then, when I explained that bystanders courageously tackled the shooter to the ground and waiting for the police, Yehuda wanted to know why the police didn't simply kill the shooter when they arrived. Stumbling over my words, I tried to explain about due process and fair trials and all sorts of things...but the confusion in Yehuda's eyes remained.
Then, in the afternoon, Amichai, who is six, came home bursting with information about Ilan Ramon. They are learning about space in Kindergarten - and there was Amichai telling me how Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli astronaut and how we should be so proud of him. Amichai explained that the space shuttle broke apart as they tried to return to Earth and about how Israel grieved. We spent the afternoon reading a book that we have about the Torah Scroll from the Holocaust that Ilan Ramon took to space with him, and watching YouTube videos of their mission.
At first, I tried not to cry while watching the videos with the children. Seeing Ilan Ramon's beaming face and anticipation as he set off into the space shuttle, and then watching it break apart was too much for me to contain my composure.
Watching image after imagine, however, I thought to myself, "Who needs composure? The kids should see me cry - they should know how touching sacrifices made by people like Ilan Ramon are." And so, I sat there crying as they clicked on video after video in their search for interesting images.
In the book that we read, Ilan Ramon describes how he took the Torah that was saved from Bergen-Belsen up into space with him. He took it, he explains, to remind the world of what happened in the Holocaust and to show that such an event would never have occurred had the State of Israel existed. And to show, full circle, that with a strong state of Israel that could send a man to space, an event like the Holocaust would not be allowed to happen again.
May our children grow stronger each day, learning to live with the incredible responsibilities they are being given in this country and learning to incorporate Ilan Ramon's teaching and those of so many other heroes into their lives.