I have a 9-year-old son. He is sensitive and compassionate. He listens carefully to conversations so as not to miss anything, and he is able to see concepts and complex relationships, making him seem wise beyond his years.
Perhaps these traits are the reason why my husband and I have never shied away from discussing current events with him in an age-appropriate way. We’re also just not the kind of parents who believe that children must order strictly off the kids’ menu or discuss only kid-friendly topics.
So, when our son returned from his Jewish overnight camp, we mentioned what was happening in Israel. He told us he already knew.
He explained that during camp they discussed the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens and said a prayer for their safe return during services. He said he knew that the teenagers died and that some Israelis killed an Arab teen in revenge.
He knew that Hamas was firing rockets at Israel from Gaza and that Israel was using the Iron Dome to protect itself. He told us that one of his bunkmates thought that the Iron Dome was a retractable roof–like the one on Cowboys Stadium in Dallas–that covered Israel each time a rocket was fired.
The following Friday, during a discussion of the week’s Torah portion at Shabbat dinner, we talked about having a moral conscience and what happens when we encounter people and organizations that have no morality. As we talked, he made the connection between our conversation and the conflict with Hamas.
But while my son understands many aspects of the situation in Israel, he is still a 9-year-old boy. A boy who believes good will triumph over evil, that children can be superheroes, that all that is needed to save the world is the right magic, treasure, or key.
I was reminded of this the other day. I noticed that he was wearing an Israeli Defense Force t-shirt that was given to him by two Israeli friends. I said, “Standing strong with Israel today?”
“Standing strong with Israel,” he replied as our 9-pound dog, Brady, walked into the room. Brady had just returned from the groomer and was looking exceptionally cute and teddy bear-like. “And so is Brady,” my son added.
“Yup. I think we should send Brady to Gaza.”
“To do what?” I asked. “Bite the ankles of the militants?”
“No,” he said, snuggling the dog. “I think that no matter how cruel Hamas is, even they would think Brady is cute.” After a pause, he added, “You know how some people say, ‘kill them with kindness?’ Well, Brady would kill them with cuteness.”
I smiled a sad smile. If only the solution were that simple. If only cuteness could help those who have been hardened by hate find a sliver of humanity in their souls. If only a battalion of puppies could end the suffering of innocent people on both sides.