Yes we are all angry. Angry that our babies were subject to such frightening events as bomb scares. It infuriated us as parents that some person out there in the world knew that the way to terrorize parents is to terrorize their children. It’s why terrorists target the innocent, the young, the civilian, the person least able to defend themselves.
So now that we know who at least is the culprit when it comes to the majority of the JCC bomb threats we vent. We vent our anger. We vent our care. We demand justice for our offspring. We want this person punished.
What’s more we are aghast that the perpetrator was himself a Jew. Now, it’s not that we haven’t experienced modern Jewish antisemites before in our history. It’s not that we don’t deal with Jewish antisemites who celebrate terrorists, think JVP conference in Chicago; think those Jewish Leftists who hold the Palestinians to no level of human decency, excusing murderous rampages as expressions of culture or the nonsensical claim of “fighting colonial oppression” (we can discuss the soft racism of low expectations in another post on another day); think the “As a Jew” Jew who has left the Jewish community except to chastise Israel for defending herself, or who blames the rise of antisemitism on the Jewish State.
Somehow we deal with these Jewish antisemites with logic, with thought out rebuttals, and with the contempt they deserve. But what we don’t hear is the level of vitriol that is being thrown at the youngman from Ashkelon. The question you need to ask yourself is why. Why does the community save their most virulent expression of disgusts for someone who is obviously suffering from some sort of mental illness, and not for those who seek to destroy the Jewish people and are most certainly in their sane mind?
Now, listen, I am not excusing what this 19 year old did. He knew it was wrong. Legal insanity is not medical insanity. You can be completely mentally ill but legally accountable. To be held legally insane is to not know that what you are doing is wrong. To be legally insane the person cannot “know the difference between a tree and a person.” Hence, if they ever knew it was a human being, no matter how ill they are, they are legally sane.
So this youngman, knew what he was doing was wrong. He knew that he was creating terror. It gave him a sense of power, and importance (or so we think). But it does not mean he is not mentally ill. Whether he has a nonmalignant inoperable brain tumor that is the cause of his mental illness is not really the issue. There is no question, that he was unfit for service in the IDF because of his mental state. And for the IDF, which even has programs to induct persons with all kinds of mental health issues, this youngman’s problems seemed to be severe.
So why the extreme hate? What ever happened to compassion in the Jewish world? We talk incessantly about rehabilitation, and the need for prison reform in the US, why does none of this apply to the JCC hoax bomber?
This does not mean that the perpetrator doesn’t go to some sort of institution. It most definitely doesn’t mean he goes free, without any recourse. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t pay for his crimes. But what that payment will look like is very important. The issue is whether the system can help him or not.
Is he a threat to the community as a whole? Is he threat to himself and others? What can be done to mitigate the possibility that he will ever do this again, or mitigate the possibility that he will spiral to an even more dangerous place? These are important questions that need to be answered, and these answers and how society deals with them will say more about us as a people, then it will ever say about this 19 year old.
Now let me say one thing as the parent of two young men with high functioning autism, and as a special needs advocate. I hold his parents completely responsible for what has happened in this situation. He lived in their house. They knew what he was doing, which was why the father was arrested and the mother has disappeared. They are responsible for his care, even though he is technically an adult. So yes, knowing he was perpetrating these hoaxes, if they did not want to call the police (and very few parents would turn in their own children), at least try to get him the medical help he needed. You do not cover up something so harmful. If you did not care about the psychological harm he was doing to young children, at least you are required to care about your own child. So yes, by letting him do what he was doing, they are accomplices in the worst kind of way. They basically abandoned their own child to the vagaries of his own mind.
But then again, what did Israeli society do to help this youngman? Why was he educated at home? He couldn’t handle public school, so did anyone follow up with the family to check on the boy as he grew up? Someone, somewhere knew something was wrong. Why did no one do anything to help? And saying that the parents didn’t want the help is not an answer It is a cop-out. Societies have all kinds of ways of helping those in need of help who refuse help.This is an issue of resolve, more than anything else.
Furthermore, why after he was rejected by the IDF, for mental illness, did no one follow up with the family? At that point society didn’t need the parents permission to help him. He was an adult. At that point, if he was such a threat that he couldn’t serve in the army, society should have intervened to help him, whether he wanted it or not. Believe me when I tell you there are ways to get people help and support even if they don’t want it. In a nation with more social workers and psychiatrists per capita than any other place on Earth, how did this family end up so isolated?
So as you go about your day, cursing this youngman and his family, maybe you should lend a moment to ask yourselves, how could this have happened in the first place? How did this young man fall through the cracks? How did a nation so intent on saving the Jewish people, fail to save this Jewish young man and his family?
Yes, now he will get the help he needs. Though it is a blight upon society that it took something like this, for someone to care about this young man and the extreme issues with which he lives.
Simply put: Society, all societies, not simply Israeli society, truly needs to find better ways to help those with mental health issues. Maybe start by fighting the stigma associated with mental illness so people aren’t afraid to get the help they need. But that too, is another post for another day.