A father took his two young sons who are fans of war games to Israel and Syria to a dramatic bid to teach them about the harsh realities of war and the devastation caused by the use of guns.
Meet Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a journalist, university teacher, and proactive dad. And like so many other dads, Helgegren had to have the violent video-game conversation with his two sons, Frank and Leo.
“We were sitting at the dinner table last autumn, and my kids started telling me about this game they wanted to play, the latest Call of Duty game, and told me about the guns and missions”
Helgegren, who spent some time in the Middle East as a freelance journalist when he was younger, was reminded of his own experiences with guns and missions – where he faced violent demonstrations and grenades to get a story.
“It was quite late in my life when I finally started to scratch the surface of what war really was,” Helgegren said.
“I thought I had a pretty good idea from television, but when I was 29 I realized I had absolutely no idea what war was. And my kids couldn’t explain it, either.”
After his sons requested to play the video game “Call of Duty,” he was concerned that they didn’t understand the real impact of war.
The father made a pact with his two sons, Leo, 11, and Frank, 10, that he would buy them the game if they first went to Israel and Syria with him to see the reality of war.
“They didn’t believe me”, Helgegren said. “It wasn’t until the second day when we were [in Israel], eating at an Israeli food stand, when they asked: ‘Dad, are we really here because of the games?’ And I said ‘yes. Yes, we are here because of the games. You need to see this.'”
Helgegren and his sons stayed with an Israeli family and visited tourist sights such as the old city in Jerusalem. But they also stopped at some unconventional tourist attractions:
We went to the Shuafat Arab refugee camp in east Jerusalem. They saw the conditions there, where people burned trash in the streets and there was an illegal drug market right next to the school.
“We went to a clinic where kids were being stitched up every single day because they had been hit in the head with the butt of a rifle”, he said.
The family stayed in the Middle East for 10 days before returning to Sweden.
“I had to explain quite a bit. I was especially thorough when explaining the politics, and pointing out that the Israeli politics do not necessarily reflect all parts of Israeli society,” Helgegren explained
Upon their return home to Sweden they no longer showed interest in playing “Call of Duty” but did ask for updates on the war. This is an extreme example, but luckily they are all safe (!), and these boys lives now are changed forever. They may even grow up to be journalists just like their dad.