While going through The Times of Israel’s online portal, I came across an article that details what a difficult year this has been for Israeli kids and how much their education has suffered due to the unceasing conflict in the region.
Needless to say, all of it came across as dishonest patter because I could not help but visualize the harrowing reality of those hundreds of dead, dismembered Palestinian children who were killed in a month’s long Israeli siege last summer, who will never know what it means to attend school and of many others who study in bombed classrooms with traces of blood splattered across their writing desks. The unfaded images of these horrors flashed across my mind in reply to each sympathy-seeking word in the article and I wanted to let it all out in the comments section; “How dare you speak about suffering and difficulty ? Of living under constant fear? The three hundred children massacred in relentless shelling by your IDF and the thousands who have died since your inception, didn’t they have a right to go to school ? ” ; the unabashed hypocrisy was blood-boiling and I proceeded to write them off.
It was not until after a full-fledged paragraph of acrimonious words and a sigh of “achievement” that I looked back up with the intention of cross-checking a statistic, and then submitting my comment. What I saw on the screen, however, completely froze me in my tracks – the statistic was alright, but staring at me was the face of a six-year old Israeli child. He was attending school for the first time after several months of turmoil and fighting (which is something I could relate to, being a Kashmiri). His eyes glared right into the camera, as if offering me a glimpse into the imminent future; when he shall grow up to battle outstanding childhood traumas and question things, with many an answer leading him to hate the most apparent cause of his suffering- the Palestinians. For all we know, his bottled up anger may even find an apt release in Israel’s Compulsory Military Program, a participation that could cost him his life. Like the millions of children in conflict across the world, this little boy knows nothing of what awaits him in the future, but I felt as if he was looking at me (and perhaps everyone who thought like me) knowing full well how indifferent I was to his suffering. The stupefaction in which I stared at his picture lasted long enough for my anger to quell, and I chose not to write anything harsh.
Truth is, children in Israel have indeed gone through a very difficult year, one that will scar and remain with them for the rest of their lives. These little pre-schoolers have had no role to play in this conflict. They do not know why or what’s going on and yet, they get to suffer in the violent repercussions of other people’s misdeeds. For those who have not been physically injured in the fighting and near-death experiences, it is a racing certainty that psychological distress, trauma, anxiety and depression will torment them for years to come. Time is not on anybody’s side in regions of conflict – least of all, children. Over half a century of turmoil and instability has weighed in heavily on their resilience on both sides of the conflict.
As such, there is a profound meaning in the aforementioned line from Wordworth’s celebrated ode to nature, that man is the product of his childhood experiences. The essence of our personality forms when we are children and the situations which overwhelm our abilities to cope bare a long-lasting impact on us. It is entirely upon the international community to decide what kind of a future it chooses to give the generations which follow; will it be one of frightening memories and violence or a promise of stability and peace ?
Therefore, what I feel obligated to share with my friends is that, while we the supporters of Palestine have won the media war by appealing to human sympathy and compassion all over the world, we cannot afford to lose the real one by being dishonest about human suffering. We cannot shut out or selectively choose who or what to sympathize with. After all, there is a large number of people who belong to the “other side” and yet, they choose to support us in the face of great hardship and difficulty
By Aamir Ahmad Amin