Monday, December 10, 2012

Boys and Tanks

Funny how programmed we are.  When you drive around in Israel before Chanukah, the streets are decorated with bright shiny decorations.  My first gut reaction is to assume they are trees and wreaths.  Only after that millisecond do I remember that there are no such decorations here.  The streets are lit up with menorahs and Jewish stars.  It's thrilling when that happens.

So, boys and tanks.  Yesterday I took grandsons Tani (age "5 almost 6")  and Amichai (age "almost 4") Klein to the Tank Corps Museum near Latrun.  It's just about the coolest place ever.  There are probably 50 tanks there (yes, real ones) and kids can climb on them, sit on the huge guns, and basically have the best game of soldier ever.  The boys were thrilled when they found out:

Tani: Wait....REAL tanks?
Me:  Yes, real ones.
Tani: Wait...we can go on them?
Me:  Yes, you can climb on them.
Tani:  And they are working?
Me:, they are not working.
Tani (disappointed): So, they are not real.
Me:  They ARE real, just not working right now.
Tani (a big skeptical): Oh, OK.

Anyway, the minute they got there and saw the REAL tanks, they were beyond excited.  There is a tank in the parking lot, just sitting there behind some bushes (maybe it was a bad tank and it was punished), and when they saw that, they thought THAT was the tank they had come to see, and rushed over to look.  I had to convince them that there were more tanks than that.

Their eyes practically bugged out of their heads when they saw how many tanks there were to visit.  They immediately ran up the steps of the first one and got into "milchama" (war) mode.  For some reason only known to brothers, Amichai immediately started calling Tani "Captain" and did that for the entire visit.

Best conversation of the day:
Tani: Chayal (soldier!) we need more bombs!
Amicha: Yes, Captain!
Amichai: Oh, Captain! I forgot! Eema said we can't have bombs!

There were tables set up for kids' craft activities.  Tani, who loves art, was excited and ended up making an origami tank - very cool.  Amichai was shy and wouldn't even color, but eventually the soldier who was manning the craft table made him (sort of) smile by giving him a picture she signed, "To Amichai, Chanukah Sameach!" and signed her name.

They were playing Chanukah music and the boys happily chimed in (loudly, completely oblivious to everything else going on, making a lot of people smile at them) with all of the Israeli Chanukah songs which I do not know yet.  I was very proud. 

After the craft activity, the soldiers told us that the movie was starting in the indoor part of the museum.  The boys were excited to see a movie about shooting.  Unfortunately for them, it was a movie about the history of the area, and of the soldiers who died there.  It was very moving and interesting, but please if you are almost 6 and almost 4 you do NOT want to hear people talking, you want shooting.  So we left.  But first we saw a group of soldiers sitting on the floor of the museum, clearly getting a history lesson.  You see that a lot here - at almost every museum or historical place you go - groups of soldiers receiving a lecture. The soldiers apparently receive a lot of education about the country during their training.

OK, back to the tanks.

Back outside, we saw two older men walking around, and one had a book in his hand, opened to a certain page.  He came up to me with tears in his eyes and showed me the page.  "Zeh ani," (This is me) he said and pointed to a picture of a young soldier on a tank.  He explained that he and his friend had been in the Tank Corps during the Yom Kippur War. Both looked so proud. I didn't know what to say.  I put my hand on his arm and said, "Kol Hakavod" because what I wanted to say wouldn't come out in English, much less in Hebrew.

After more tank climbing it was time to go, but first there was the required visit to the Gift Shop! After the purchase of several poorly made plastic tanks, we were outta there.

On the way back, they were chattering about the visit and had but one criticism of Bubby's tour guide skills, "Bubby, next time we will come with Abba because he knows how to climb on things and you just stand there."

Last thought - and how can one help this, living here - my thoughts went from the sight of the veterans to the faces of the beautiful young chayalim who were working and learning there, to my little grandsons.  Three generations of chayalim. 

My heart was at once wrenched with worry and bursting with love and pride.  And that, in a nutshell, is what it is like to live here.



  1. I took my (grown-up) husband to Latrun as a reward after having met zillions of my extended family in Israel without a hope of remembering any of their strange Israeli names. He loved it as much as your grandsons, I think, but with less climbing.