The Real Stories Behind the Headlines ; Closeup Looks at Daily Life during the Intifada, the Lives of Child Soldiers

By Carol des Lauriers Cieri | The Christian Science Monitor, August 16, 2005 | Go to article overview
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The Real Stories Behind the Headlines ; Closeup Looks at Daily Life during the Intifada, the Lives of Child Soldiers


Carol des Lauriers Cieri, The Christian Science Monitor


These are the stories we don't always want to read. Crisp, objective news reports are easy by comparison. They rattle off facts and statistics - a war here, a settlement agreement there - and ask little of us. But these books describe the human experience behind those reports, and that is another matter altogether. These are stories of sights and sounds and smells. Stories of anguish and fear.

We are moved, and we should be: The human cost of wars and failed settlement agreements is devastating. It deserves our attention, our concern, our response.

Helen Schary Motro, an American lawyer and columnist who has occasionally written for this paper, moved to Israel 20 years ago with her husband, a cardiologist and a native Israeli. They have three daughters.

"Maneuvering between the Headlines" tells the story of what life there has been like for her and her family and friends. "Since the Intifada started," she writes, "there have been so many bombings that it is impossible to keep them straight."

How can one support bombs when trying to live among them? While the book is not a political diatribe, the writer touches on her own politics: "I didn't fit the profile of the hard-line American settler living in the occupied territories, or supporting them.... Many Americans who have moved to Israel form the background of the peace movement. I am far from any activism, but I am with them in my sympathies and in my writing."

She aptly describes daily life as a surreal blend of the almost determinedly normal, interspersed with episodes of sheer terror. She writes of waiting in anguish the afternoon her husband was due at the very place the deadliest suicide bomb to date went off, not knowing (in those days before cellphones), that he had rescheduled his appointment.

Schary Motro's essays read more like a blog than a book, as she describes the consequences of daily choices, both personal and political. In the pressure-cooker that is Israel, there is nothing abstract about either one.

"When you see a restaurant you have passed a thousand times turn into a burnt-out gutted shell, and blood on a sidewalk you've walked, and when describing it, you say, 'It's right across the street from that little store where I always bought the children's shoes,' " she writes, "that's when violence is suddenly no longer theoretical."

Schary Motro chose her life in Israel. But the child soldiers profiled in "Innocents Lost" are victims, pure and simple.

Jimmie Briggs is a journalist who spent six years traveling to Rwanda, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Afghanistan to craft these accounts of children who have become soldiers. Their stories are as chilling as they are revealing.

Briggs tells of the careful reintegration of children involved in genocide in Rwanda and the way children in Columbia are brought up in various factions, and of their role in the drug trade.

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