Saturday, September 01, 2007

Travels with Abe: And these are the generations

Forwarded to me from a good friend in Israel, “Abe.”   This is a series of the Middle East and of Israel from an Israeli's perspective.  Please come back, you will be seeing much more of Abe.  Enjoy.

And these are the generations…

 Around November of 1990 we knew there would be a war. Gas masks were distributed to the whole population. My parents were staying with me in Eilat at the time. I was a single parent with three children. My parents and I went together to the mask distribution center. It was at a local school. You went to the desk, signed that you had received the mask, showed an ID, and were handed a mask kit. I had my mask from the IDF, so only my parents and my kids were getting masks. I was there to pick up my kids’ masks. I signed for them and was given the kits. Then came my parents’ turn. My mother took hers and…there came my father. The 73 year-old Holocaust Survivor picked up the kit in its brown box, looked up towards the ceiling, smiled wryly, and spoke to his dead father, killed in the Holocaust, “You see Papa,” he said, “there is a difference. This time around we get masks.”

 In Israel there are four generations, each one with a different mentality. My father’s generation sees life through the prism of people who have seen the worst of anti-Semitism. They have been hunted down, imprisoned, beaten, starved, hanged, gassed and burned. Those who survived came out bitter and hard. Many, like my father, actually went on to live normal lives. They fathered children and played with them. They had jobs, careers, successes and failures, but underneath it all, they carried the scars. This clouded every move they made, in one way or another. I could appreciate the mentality but I could never fully understand it, not having gone through that hell.

 The second generation is mine. Born in a sovereign State of Israel, we grew up proud, accepting the military as a part of our coming of age. We were children of the 50s and early 60s. We were drafted in the late 60s and early 70s and served well. We started to ask questions of our leaders and demand peace. We understood that THEY were trying to kill us, but we were confident in our strength and could, therefore, be compassionate. We felt bewildered that the world saw us as bullies when we were so understanding.  We traveled to places like Europe and the US.

 The third generation is my kid sister’s. They served while asking more questions and started traveling to exotic places like India and Thailand. They behaved in ways that my generation considered selfish. We grew up with the feeling that we should sacrifice for the state. The state was our identity and we felt guilty when we were out of the country. Not these kids. They were perfectly comfortable anywhere in the world. If an Englishman could get high in India, then so could an Israeli.

 The current generation seems to be a mixture of the second and the third. I can’t quite get to know them. The age difference is too great. They serve well (that, sadly, is the single most important requirement). I try, but I find it very difficult to connect to these people politically. As a scuba instructor, I can reach them socially (sort of) for the purposes of teaching, but beyond that…

 In some ways, they seem to be more conservative than we were, and in others they’re the opposite. I just can’t put my finger on their pulse, but I trust them with the security of the country, and…they serve well.

Tzeth’a Leshalom VeShuvh’a Leshalom


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