Our nine-year old skipped home last night after nine pm, returning from her youth group’s special evening activity. To a western ear, that sounds almost irresponsible. What – out on her own in the dark? So late? But here in Israel that scenario repeats itself in town after town. And our community in Gush Etzion is no exception.
Children walk home on their own from school, no need to escort them to the bus stop and watch their every move. Petty crime and worse, is not the norm here, at least not yet. Thank G-d our milk cartons tell stories of cows rather than lost kids.
We do face terrorism, though, in a way that goes beyond the random checks at western airports. Our daily lives are filled with guards at the entrance to the supermarket, the mall, the neighborhood cafe. Guards who seem passive or even disinterested as you drop off your child at kindergarten, yet are trained to protect at any cost and have sadly been put to the test with brave results.
Little Noam Glick, also 9, from the town of Psagot, skipped down her own steps on her way home last night too – from the same youth group. Luckily, she spotted a shadowy figure and called out immediately to her dad. Noam startled her Arab attacker who stabbed her before she reached the safety of her front door, and it seems that only her father’s quick wits saved the family and the community from a much larger tragedy.
Are we scared? As parents, do we keep our children closer? Of course this is what we instinctively want to do. Will this keep them safer? Will better fences or cameras keep the bad guys away? Vigilance for the sake of our children is a parent’s top priority. As a mother, I want to know that I’m doing all I can.
But while safety may start in the home, in our case we rely on the army, and in a greater way, on the Israeli government, to protect our children from terrorism as well. The messages coming from our leaders have a direct impact on our enemies. The actions of our government and in turn, our army, influence the determination of those who want to see us removed from this land. No, this is not just an ideological issue. It is a face of life throughout Israel. Children are targeted in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center, as they are in the Judean hills. Jews pose a problem for some of our Arab neighbors, who are incited by their leaders to hate and to give their own lives to terrorize ours.
Yes, as a mother I want to hold my kids close. As a Jew, I want to live in the Land of Israel, free and proud. This is only a contradiction for those who do not agree that I have a right to be here. So we must find a way to stay, and to do so safely. My children must be able to continue to skip home happily tonight, just as I must work to find the way to protect our right to remain here. In Psagot, in Tel Aviv, anywhere in our home.
And I expect our government to make this argument, loud and clear – and consistently, in words and in actions. For Noam, and Adiel, and all their friends making their way home today.