The opening scene in The Six-Day Hero takes place at a ceremony in celebration of Israel’s nineteenth birthday. Twelve-year-old Motti’s brother Gideon is on the daïs being honored as an Independence Day baby. Motti can’t stand the boring, hot ceremony and wriggles out to get a drink. The story continues in that vein, presenting the early days of the state of Israel through the eyes of a typical twelve-year-old. On the cusp of what we now know as the Six-Day War, the young country is ever vigilant of the enemies surrounding it and the role that every citizen and resident must play in defending their country.
Motti both idolizes and resents his older brother, a strapping young soldier who comes home from the army base on the weekends. On one occasion Motti gets to visit the base and surreptitiously sees more than he should, giving the viewer a look at the young country on high alert, preparing for an imminent attack. During the actual attack the author depicts how parents, teachers, students, and the elderly respond and feel, bringing the reader close to the confusion and raw feelings of the time.
The Six-Day Hero does not shy away from showing the realities of war — there is graphic violence, and some beloved family members do not survive. Depictions of the sorrow that follows are vivid and affecting. But the story ends on a hopeful note as Motti’s family explores parts of Jerusalem long cut off to them and are able to see Motti’s father’s childhood home, reconnecting with old neighbors and renewing longtime friendships.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Dina Weinstein is a Richmond, Virginia-based writer.