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Looking Back On Last Summer's War In Gaza

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many, many years from now, children who were growing up in the year 2014 will remember living through the war between Israel and Hamas. When that war ended, NPR's Emily Harris asked parents how they explained the war to children.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Ayelet Ben David’s younger brother was one of some 70 Israelis who died in this summer's conflict. He was killed by a rocket launched from Gaza.

AYELET BEN DAVID: He was like my child because when he was born, I was 15. I took part of raising him. I still can't believe that he's not coming back.

HARRIS: Netanel Maman was 22 years old, a soldier deployed to the outskirts of Gaza, but on a weekend leave home when he was hit in late August. Ben David says he and their brother, Tamir, were in the car with the music cranked up. They didn't hear warning sirens, but at a stoplight saw other Israelis jumping out of their cars and hitting the ground.

DAVID: Tamir succeeded to get out of the car. And Netanel was still sitting in the car. He was hurt in his head, very bad.

HARRIS: Netanel was hospitalized in a coma for a week before he died.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD PLAYING)

HARRIS: Ben David tells this story in her parents' home just 20-some miles north of the Gaza border. Kids are running around, including her youngest, a 3-year-old girl. The girl knows the basics of what happened to her uncle, says Ben David.

DAVID: She knows that a bomb hit the car and Netanel was hurt very bad and he died. She knows that this is Arabs, and they want to kill us. They don't want us to live in Israel. They want to take the country from us.

HARRIS: It's a different message than Ben David learned as a child when her father did business selling produce grown by Gazans. That was a different time, she says. Not peace, but less fear and no personal loss.

DAVID: It's very hard to teach after something that bad happens to your family. It's very hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR RAID SIREN)

HARRIS: Israeli parents tended their children amid the wail of air raid sirens and inside bomb shelters. Gazans had neither. Some parents there taught their children the difference between incoming fire and outgoing.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

HARRIS: That, they called ours. Incoming Israeli attacks were simply theirs. But when 4-year-old Rahaf Abu Jameh was injured in July, her mother, Malkee-yeh Abu Jameh, heard neither. She had just given Rahaf a bath.

MALKEE-YEH ABU JAMEH: (Through translator) She was next to me, tired and feeling sick. I told her I would buy her some juice and gave her a coin. Then in a split second, there was an explosion in the street. My daughter was inside next to the flood front door. A missile hit the street, and shrapnel came inside.

HARRIS: Rahaf was hit in the head. After three days in a Gaza hospital, she was taken to Egypt. She died there September 9, one of some 2,100 Gazans killed in this war. Her mother spoke to me on the day the girl's body was due to come home. Sitting in a receiving room, surrounded by women dressed in black, she said there's no need to explain anything to her other children - her 9-year-old daughter sitting beside her or her dead daughter's twin, sleeping with his head in mom's lap.

ABU JAMEH: (Through translator) Everything happened right in front of them. She was injured right in front of them. This needs no explanation.

HARRIS: The larger war, she explains this way...

ABU JAMEH: (Through translator) We say this is resistance. And they are Jews, and we are defending our home. And this war will last forever.

HARRIS: Emily Harris, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.