Helgegren had been sitting around the table with Leo, 10, and Frank, 11, last year, when they started talking about the new Call of Duty video game they wanted to get.
He told them they could play the game, but only if they understood the reality of what it showed – which meant witnessing the real fall out of war and occupation.
I suppose it’s a good job they didn’t want to play ‘The Sims 4’, or he’d probably have got the whole family arrested for being peeping toms!
He looked into taking them to Iraq or Afghanistan, before deciding that Israel would be a safer option …
… this being in April, before the latest conflict in Gaza. They went to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, and visited the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. They were shocked by what they saw at Shuafat, he says.
“Outside the school, there is more or less an open drugs market; people are burning trash in the street; and, at the clinic, the manager told them: ‘We’re stitching up kids every day who get beaten in the head with the butt of a gun.'”
What button combo do you press for that, I wonder?
The “holiday” wasn’t intended to “traumatise them,” says Helgegren, pointing out that there were nicer experiences, such as staying with an Israeli family, and visits to museums and the zoo. But he acknowledges the visit to the refugee camp, particularly affected them.
“They were very sad. My younger son wanted to bring his air gun and defend the children of Shuafat. I said: ‘You really have to think about that because the reason they are there in the first place is because someone brought a gun, so bringing another gun wouldn’t solve the situation.'”
Oh, really? I defer to the wisdom of John Rambo on this occasion…
And once back home? “They didn’t want to play the games because it didn’t feel right.” It also led to other conversations – talking about asylum seekers coming to Sweden, one of his sons said he could now imagine the types of situation people were fleeing.
“He said ‘I understand why people want to come to our country and I don’t blame them’.”
Wait until you’re taxed to the hilt to pay for it, kid. And your idyllic Sweden isn’t quite what it once was (and for that, you’ll not have to wait too long).
See how you feel then.