Sixteen-year-olds, to state the obvious, go to great extents to be noticed; they crave attention. Eye-catching modes of dress and haircuts scream aloud. At sixteen, these young adults experience first love, romance, and heartbreaks. Sixteen-year-olds expect to be treated as adults They are fully capable of grasping deep ideas. And they set goals.
My friends and I grew up in Israel. We felt those years were our time to shine. Passionate and idealistic, we were ready to take charge and responsibility. We held meaningful discussions well into the night, joined exciting volunteering projects, and hiked throughout the country.
Today, Israeli sixteen-year-olds are not different (putting aside their crush with technology). Our nephew, Nadav (16), lives around the corner from where Sunday’s terror attack took place. He goes to high school a few blocks away from Ari Fuld’s home. Nadav is a counselor at the local youth movement, loves hiking, swimming, and being with friends. He also volunteers. Last summer he was a counselor at a camp for special needs kids.
Naturally, there is his sixteen-year-old side too. He doesn’t always listen to his parents. He doesn’t take school too seriously, and possessing a good sense of fun, he knows how to get goofy. In many ways, our nephew is a lovable and somewhat typical. Yes, he wants attention. He seeks societal acceptance – even praise. Since our society values high achievers, athletes, and academics, teenagers strive to excel in those areas.
Large parts of Palestinian society dance at a different beat altogether. The sixteen-year-old who murdered Avi Fuld joins a long list of “national heroes.” How sharp are the dividing lines between Israeli and Palestinian societies! It is instructive to pay close attention to this great divide.
Israel has been combating Palestinian violence for a long time. Israel’s existential struggle has a long reach, extending to so many other countries that support Palestinian aggression. Israel’s self-defense often gets labeled as excessive force. Bogus calls of collective punishment never cease. In fact, there is a whole litany of Israel bashing making the rounds. Regular censure by the clear majority of the international community is a standard bill of fare.
But, blood-thirsty terrorists are not the victims. Far from it. The Palestinian Authority (PLO) support for cold-blooded murders is old news. Similarly, old news is the phenomenon of blind international backing that the Palestinians enjoy. Sitting on the sidelines of this conflict is tantamount to complicity. Any equating of the killing of innocent people to those who kill, or cheer murder is a sickness.
Last week I spoke with an American college student who said that is she was Palestinian, she probably would be a terrorist and try to destroy the State of Israel. She rationalized this by saying that “any time a bone fide nation is at war with individuals, she chooses individuals.” When I asked why she doesn’t care about individual Israelis under constant attack, her response was evasive: “It’s not the same.”
Understanding the Middle East conflict is a daunting challenge, very complex. No side is perfect, and mistakes have been made. Understanding the differing narratives is legitimate and even important. Nevertheless, support for ruthless terrorists is untenable and detrimental.
When on one side there is a society dedicated and striving for kindness and peace. On the opposing side, there is hell-bent devotion to violence. Our moral taste buds will not be deceived: sweet is sweet and bitter is bitter.
I hope and pray that more Palestinians will realize that spreading hate and encouraging violence should be stopped immediately and Palestinian youth should be pushed to focus on positive accomplishments that will help create a better future for all sides.