10 children dead and we are having the wrong conversation

I am going to say something that some might find offensive, but needs to be said. I am not saying it for the purpose of blaming the victims but to prevent more victims in the future. Where is the responsibility of those students who walked in that wadi and died?

They wrote texts to their friends saying that they thought what they were doing was stupid, irresponsible, and dangerous. They said they thought they would die. Yet while they challenged their guide’s judgment on their phones, they continued to follow his footsteps on the ground.

Those students were not 8 years old. They were 17. They were old enough to make and take a decision for their own safety. They knew it was pouring in the Judean Hills, a water-shed that feeds torrential rain water into that very water basin they were walking in. They knew there was massive flooding in that area the day before. They knew it was raining in the Judean Hills at that moment, in fact it was actually raining on them. They knew that weather reports are not always accurate. They knew humans make mistakes. And yet they continued to listen to authority.

While in general authority should be respected, it should only be respected to a certain degree — even by children. Having a discussion about independent thinking and personal responsibility with children is the message of this tragedy.

Four years ago the South Korean ferry, the Sewol, began to list and sink. Hundreds of high school student passengers wanted to scramble to the top of the boat. But they didn’t. They were told by the captain, the ultimate authority, to stay in their cabin. More than 280 students died listening to authority.

Yes, we need to find out who is overseeing the mechinot programs. Yes, we need to find out who in this mechina was negligent and reckless. But the most important conversation we should be having is how should we educate children about challenging authority. I’m fully aware that this type of rebellious behavior comes with its own set of challenges, concerns and problems. But the conversation needs to be had.

About the Author
Robby Berman has a Masters (MPA) from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, a Masters (MBA) from the Baruch School of Business and is the founder & director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society (www.hods.org).
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