what do I tell a two-year-old?
He keeps asking me about the border. Yousuf, I mean. He overhears things, ma3bar this and ma3bar that…and so naturally inquisitive, he asks what we are doing and why are we still here and each question if followed by another and another..
“Mama can I ask you something?”
“Anything, my love”
“Why are we still here, in Arish?”
“Because we are waiting to enter Gaza, dear”
“But then why don’t we go to Gaza?
Because the ma3bar is closed, my love.
“Why is it still closed??”
“Mommy why is still closed?”
“I don’t know.” I know my, dear, but do you really want to know? Do you really need to know?
“Well who’s closing it mommy?”
What do I tell him? “Some bad people.”
“You mean like in the stories, like Sheer Khan in the Jungle Book?”
“Yes, sure, like Sheer Khan.”
“But who are they? Who are these bad people Is it the yahood?” He asks, mimicking what he’s heard on the border.
What do I say? I hesitate. “Look, there are some people; some are good, some are bad. And the bad ones are closing the border."
But why? What did we do?
I wish I knew, my dear. I wish I had all the answers, my love, so I could answer all your questions. I wish I didn’t have to answer such questions to start with. But now I do, and what can I say to you?
“Mommy, please tell them to open it.”
“I tried, my dear.”
“Try harder. Try again. Tell them again. Please, tell them ‘Yousuf wants to enter Gaza’.”
And so it goes:
Dear Mr. Peretz: My son Yousuf, 2 years and 9 months, would like me to inform you that he wants to enter Gaza. He has asked me to tell whoever it is who is keeping it closed to open the border for him immediately. In fact, he asks me everyday. And now, asking is no long sufficient: he wants answers, too. Why is the border still closed? And who is keeping it closed and why? So, in addition to asking you to open the border, I am also writing to ask you what I can tell a 2 year old to satisfy his insatiable curiosity. What can I tell him of borders and occupation and oppression and collective punishment? What would YOU tell him? Lying doesn’t work-2 year olds are like natural born lie detectors. And so he figures it’s the bad guy-like in the stories that we all read growing up. And now, he demands to know who the bad guy is. What do I tell a 2 year old, Mr. Peretz, about the bad guy who won’t let him return home?
A Palestinian mother