An Israeli perspective on ‘The Hunger Games’

Jennifer Lawrence in ‘The Hunger Games’

BY GALIT LEV-HARIR

I recently finished reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy. I began the first book because my 11-year-old son and many of his friends were reading it, and I believe it is important to monitor the books that my children are reading. However, like millions of others, I found that once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.

Now that I have finished the series (and I promise not to spoil it for those who haven’t), I think there are messages in these books that are not apparent to pre-adolescents. One of the overarching themes is that it is human nature to wage war and to inflict suffering on other human beings, and that because of this tendency mankind is in danger of destroying itself.

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Indeed, one only needs to look at the numerous genocides, wars, and armed conflicts that have occurred throughout history to see how reality supports this view. Despite the fact that Judaism and Christianity emphasize peaceful values—repairing the world, loving one another, practicing kindness to one’s neighbor, and helping the downtrodden—human-inflicted atrocities continue to occur throughout the world on a regular basis.  Our civilization is more technologically advanced than ever before; yet, we do not seem to have progressed with regard to how we treat one another.

In “The Hunger Games,” author Suzanne Collins has created a futuristic world where mankind has accepted—and actually celebrates—the crime that she considers to be the most heinous of all: forcing children to kill one another.

There are many horrific conflicts today in which children are forced to kill one another. In Uganda, Sierra Leone, and other African nations, children are drugged, brainwashed, and coerced until they become merciless killers. As an Israeli citizen, when I think of children who are indoctrinated to kill others, I think of the videos I have seen from Palestinian TV: songs that celebrate suicide bombers, kindergarten teachers who encourage their students to kill Jews, and a character 

dressed like Mickey Mouse who applauds when Palestinian children say they hope to die as martyrs while fighting the Zionist Satan.

The horror of “The Hunger Games” is that “civilized” people in the nation’s Capital view killing children as sport. All three books abound with the most gruesome and violent deaths one can imagine. Nevertheless, one of the most pivotal scenes is eerily reminiscent of the Beit Lid suicide bombing that occurred in Israel on January 22, 1995. On that day, a Palestinian suicide bomber, disguised as an Israeli soldier, approached a busy bus stop in central Israel. The suicide bomber walked into the crowd and detonated the hidden explosive belt that he was wearing. Bystanders rushed to assist the injured. About three minutes later, a second suicide bomber exploded at the same spot, killing and injuring both the people wounded in the first explosion, as well as those who had rushed to assist.

I don’t know if Suzanne Collins knew about the Beit Lid massacre when she wrote her books. Most Americans are not aware of the details regarding the various terrorist attacks that have occurred in Israel over the years. But it is very different for those of us who know people who were personally affected or killed in attacks. Despite the years that have passed, the horrors of the attacks have never diminished. 

In the second book of “The Hunger Games,” Haymitch says to Katniss, “Remember who the enemy is.” We realize that the enemy is willing to annihilate innocent men, women, and children in order to achieve a political goal. Katniss concludes that leaders who believe in sacrificing children can never lead us to peace.

 “The Hunger Games” should be viewed as a warning. Like Katniss, we must learn that we can never make peace with those who manipulate children and who encourage them to become murderers. Rather, if civilization is to survive and flourish, we must build a world in which all children are safe and protected, a world in which men and women do not seek to dominate one another through violence. I hope and pray that such a day will come.