Beni’s War

  • Review
By – October 26, 2020

Tam­mar Stein’s The Six-Day Hero intro­duced read­ers to an Israeli fam­i­ly with three sons, the old­est of whom hero­ical­ly lost his life in the Six Day War. This sequel focus­es on the youngest son Beni, who must now watch his remain­ing broth­er, Mot­ti, go off to war when the troops are sud­den­ly called up to defend Israel as the Yom Kip­pur War erupts.

Beni has been hav­ing trou­ble adapt­ing to his fam­i­ly’s move to a small moshav in the north of Israel from their long-time home in Jerusalem. He strug­gles to make new friends, adjust to a new teacher, and endure the bul­ly­ing of a class­mate. When the moshav is attacked in the war’s ear­ly days, Beni, his fam­i­ly, and all their neigh­bors run to shel­ters for pro­tec­tion against the falling artillery shells. War changes the social dynam­ics of Beni’s age group, as they begin to form more sup­port­ive and cohe­sive rela­tion­ships at this fright­en­ing time. They are wor­ried about sib­lings on the bat­tle­field while they attempt to remain brave and help­ful on the home front.

When Beni learns that Mot­ti has been tak­en pris­on­er by the Egypt­ian army, he is grate­ful that his broth­er is alive but very wor­ried about his treat­ment at the hands of ene­my forces. He hears a pris­on­ers’ swap is planned and decides he must per­son­al­ly make sure the swap pro­ceeds with­out any snags. While his par­ents are away, he under­takes a per­ilous jour­ney of sev­er­al hours to vis­it the camp where the Egypt­ian pris­on­ers are under guard in the hope he can make sure the endeav­or is pro­ceed­ing smooth­ly. Unsuc­cess­ful in his attempt to breach army secu­ri­ty, he starts for home but finds his trans­porta­tion options are now very lim­it­ed and there is no easy way to return to his moshav before his par­ents return and find him gone. As he pro­ceeds slow­ly toward home, an oppor­tu­ni­ty aris­es to show courage and use his skills to help repair a bro­ken down truck which is imped­ing the pris­on­er exchange. Beni is over­joyed when his broth­er final­ly returns home and proud that he played a part in assur­ing his brother’s safe return.

Stein brings the ten­sions and ter­rors of war to read­ers who may now be able to bet­ter empathize with chil­dren fac­ing wartime anx­i­eties and fright. An impor­tant peri­od in Israeli his­to­ry feels imme­di­ate and real as read­ers accom­pa­ny Beni through his tra­vails and they share his fears for his fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty. It is empow­er­ing for chil­dren to read about the resource­ful­ness, inge­nu­ity, and brav­ery shown by chil­dren of their own age group dur­ing chal­leng­ing circumstances.

An author’s After­word” edu­cates by shar­ing a brief his­to­ry of the Yom Kip­pur War as well as its caus­es and after-effects, ensur­ing under­stand­ing and context.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions