The Six-Day Hero

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What the Book is About:

This thrilling, beautifully written coming-of-age novel vividly captures the spirit of Israel during the Six-Day War through the eyes of twelve-year-old Motti, who lives in Jerusalem, just a few meters from the Jordanian border. The entire country is suspended in a state of tense anticipation, Motti’s brother and father have been drafted and his best friend has fled the country.  Motti dreams of playing the hero and is frustrated that he’s too young to help, until the reality of war teaches him that courage and daring are not exactly synonymous. Kids will be unable to put down this fast-paced and poignant novel as they join Motti in navigating through this inspiring and difficult era of recent Israeli history, so rarely documented for this age group. The Six-Day Hero has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Six-Day War: The book takes place in 1967 Jerusalem, and although Motti’s voice is as fresh as that of any modern-day kid, the historical setting is woven unobtrusively through the very fabric of this story. A set of illustrated maps show boundaries and landmarks, before and after the war. 
  • This book is rich with Israeli culture through song, snacks, random Hebrew phrases and a trip through an IDF base.

Positive Role Models

  • Motti is a clever and daring kid with big dreams. He risks his life to look out for his little brother and to save his friend. He matures over the course of the story from thrill-seeking daredevil to protective brother and friend. 
  • Gideon, Motti’s older brother, is tough on him, but sticks up for Motti when it counts. He is proud to serve his country and more than willing to fight and defend his homeland. When he sees Motti kicking a cat, he stops him; he doesn’t believe in hurting helpless creatures.   
  • Mrs. Friedberg is a magnificent character. A crabby Holocaust survivor with enormous reserves of inner strength, she takes charge in the bomb shelter and in the aftermath of the war with courage and resolve.

Content Advisory

This book deals with the harsh reality of war. Lives are lost, and there’s the definite sense that things are not okay or safe for Motti and his family. Nevertheless, there are no graphically violent or scary scenes in this book, although the tension and fear is palpable and some parts are very, very sad. It’s beautifully written from Motti’s perspective, and age appropriate in level and content, but war is difficult. We suggest sticking to our age recommendations for this book. 

Motti uses the words “piss” and “crap” once, and he is rebuked for his language. It’s also noted, as an aside, that some soldiers like to read “sexy novels and westerns”, while Gideon reads serious classics.

Topics To Discuss

After the war is over, Motti and his family visit his father’s childhood friend, Daoud, whose family fought against the Jews in the war, and Holocaust survivor Mrs. Friedburg invites young volunteers from Germany, the country that put her into a camp and murdered her relatives, to her house for lunch. Can you understand why they did that? Would you do the same? Why or why not? 

More For You

“Jerusalem of Gold” by Naomi Shemer is an ode to the beauty of Jerusalem and the longing of the Jewish people to return to their holy city. After the War of Independence, Jerusalem was divided and Jews were not permitted to pray at the Western Wall. The Six-Day War brought reunification; inspired by the joy that washed over the nation, Naomi Shemer added a final verse:
“We have returned to the water cisterns, to the market and to the square,
A shofar calls from Temple Mount in the Old City.
And in the caves in the stone, thousands of suns are shining.
We shall return and go down to the Dead Sea by the Jericho Road.”