Children as pawns on the national Chess board: children in Israel’s 1948 war of Independence

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The article examines how nationalism shapes perceptions of childhood and defines the role of children in a national struggle, and the challenges of implementing these perceptions during wartime, while explores the evacuation of children during the Israeli War of Independence (1948) as a case study. While nationalism played a central role in shaping the society's perceptions of children's roles, practical constraints and other perceptions exerted a significant influence. While the leadership opposed evacuation, the question of whether the presence of children on frontline settlements strengthened or weakened their fight was disputed among their members. Mothers both wanted their children with them to boost morale and wished them to be safe far away. Some accepted that they could play a vital role, others supported their evacuation so they could play their own part without hindrance. These dilemmas were compounded by the fact that children served as emotional and mental supports for both the family and the collective. The trauma of the Holocaust heightened this aspect of the double bind. The tension between child welfare vs. national goals often led to last-minute decisions. Children were thus more often evacuated under live fire rather than in the pre-planned, organized fashion characteristic of the 2WW Blitz in Britain. Despite the national principles aligning children with the well-being of the nation, their application during wartime proved intricate and contingent upon specific circumstances and the immediate danger faced by children. The harsh reality highlights the modern concept of childhood and the traditional concept of motherhood. It concludes that a child's role in national warfare is characterized by both conceptual complexity and practical flexibility. Especially in a traditional and national society striving for modernity as Israeli society. Furthermore, even in an existential war, national indoctrination can encounter limitations in its power and influence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-739
Number of pages29
JournalHistory of the Family
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Britain
  • Israel
  • Perceptions of childhood
  • children
  • evacuation
  • family
  • motherhood
  • national societies
  • war


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