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The Children of 1973: A Group Picture

Reading newspapers for children from the winter of 1973 gives an opportunity to get to know the children and young adults of the era. The letters to the editors and various articles published during the war and in the months after it, allow us to draw a group portrait of the young adults who are now in their 50's.

Children Speak Like Adults 

For the contemporary reader, the Hebrew and maturity with which the children of that era express themselves is striking. They write in the language of the publications of the 60's and 70's, on a much more formal register than what we find today. "I wish to note", "we must", "I do not agree with the opinion of…" "we must clarify" and other figures of speech in formal Hebrew seem to us to be very far from the Hebrew spoken by contemporary high school kids. However, the Hebrew is just the superficial indicator of the breadth of subjects and points of view found in these letters.

Preoccupied Children, Worried Children

The Children of 1973: A Group PictureWhat preoccupied the children? Everything that was on the agenda in the State of Israel during the Yom Kippur war and the stormy months following it. First of all, the intimate circle. Children expressed fear and worry about the war. They worried about the soldiers, whether those soldiers were their fathers, or just any soldier. The sirens scared them, threatening their protected and pleasant childhood.  They were worried about the fate of the captives and the wounded and felt great sorrow. However, they also very quickly began to express themselves regarding the state of the country: they tell of their devotion to the war effort  their help implementing the blackout, collecting money, working in the fields, delivering mail.

Trying to Understand the Arabs

Many children expressed their thoughts regarding the Arabs. The figure of "The Arab" greatly preoccupied the Israeli children and young adults of that era. Was the pitiful representation of the Arab fighter, created after the Six Day War, still relevant? Was it possible to talk about "Arab characteristics"?  Some viewed the Arabs as cowards because they attacked the Jewish State during its holiest day, Yom Kippur.  Some teenagers fiercely came out against the Arabs, specifically in regards to their values such as the sanctity of life. However, there were also many who expressed their opposition to gross generalizations and even claimed that the war, from the perspective of the Arabs, rehabilitated their sense of pride and that maybe there was a chance for peace. The children dealt with questions regarding the chances for peace while at the same time discussing the results of the war: Who won? What else could we have accomplished?

​The Children, the Failure and the Public Protest

Immediately after the war ended, began the public discussion regarding what was called "the failure". The discussion also occupied children and teenagers. Was Dayan to blame? Did the whole government need to take responsibility? Could the blame be placed on the doorstep of the ruling party?
Very quickly the figure of Motti Ashkenazi appears. Ashkenazi was a captain in the reserves whose personal protest turned into a mass movement. Dayan versus Ashkenazi  who was right? What are the boundaries of legitimate criticism? The 10 and 12 year old were very preoccupied with these questions. Even if they were parroting the words of their parents and the other adults around them, their involvement in these matters and the way they expressed themselves seems remarkable to the contemporary reader.

And yet, after all, children are children. This is highlighted in their letters, in various ways. One such instance is the following words 10 year old Meirav from Ra'anana wrote to the editors of "Our Ha'aretz":
Dear Editor,
I would like to ask: during wartime, like the last one, what do they do with the animals in the zoo? Do they bring them into bomb shelters or leave them in their cages? If they do leave them, what would happen to them if a bomb falls on them?
Isn't that animal cruelty!?
  • 1. Children collect money for the war effort.
  • 2. A girl writes about the bravery of the mothers.
  • 3. A girl in 7th grade writes about the results of the war.
  • 4. Children argue about Dayan's responsibility.
  • 5. Dayan, Ashkenazy and the protest: children participate.
  • 6. A girl writes about the sanctity of life.
  • 7. 12 Year old girl: respect the Arabs.
  • 8. A boy writes: respect the Arabs' accomplishments.
  • 9. Children: volunteer for the harvest, calls to give soldiers rides.
  • 10. Children volunteer to deliver mail.
  • 11. Children get angry: in poetry and prose.
  • 12. A girl encourages a soldier.
  • 13. What will happen to the animals in the zoo?
  • 14. Protest, investigative committee, responsibility- children arguing.
  • 15. A girl writes a poem about her uncle who was wounded in the war.
  • 16. Youth wonder about and recommend paths to peace.
  • 17. Children are involved: army, politics, helping the economy.
  • 18. The Arabs, the chances for peace: children express themselves
  • 19. Sorrow and worry: A girl in Jerusalem
  • 20. A boy writes about a conversation with a soldier wounded in battle.
  • 21. The war through the eyes of a girl from Haifa.