Jonathan Muskat

It’s all about the youth

It’s all about the youth. They terrify me, and they fill me with hope. Yes, the youth scare me. The world, including our allies, is pushing Israel towards a two-state solution to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They argue there’s no military solution, only a diplomatic one. That might be true, but look at the youth. Look at the Palestinian youth. In Palestinian Authority schools, textbooks incite violent jihad, promote antisemitism, and glorify terror attacks. Palestinian children are taught that every Muslim should engage in jihad for the liberation of Palestine. Their history books are riddled with antisemitism, claiming Jews control the banks, media, and politics, and painting Israeli soldiers as monsters who laugh while killing Palestinian children. To believe Palestinians can truly accept a Jewish state seems remote when considering how the youth are being educated. And that terrifies me.

In America, youth today scare me as well. There was a time when American support for Israel was unwavering, when Israel was seen as a close ally sharing American values of freedom, liberty, and equality. But look at today’s youth, especially on college campuses. They are transforming their progressive values into a hatred of Israel. Among all progressive causes, they’ve rallied around the cause of Israeli genocide, viewing Palestinians as victims and Israel as the oppressor. This binary narrative is why support for Israel is eroding among American youth. And that scares me.

But the youth also give me hope. On Yom Hazikaron, we cry over the loss of too many young men and women who died defending the Jewish state. These were young people with immense promise and potential, taken too soon. We recite a Kel Maley. We visit Har Herzl to honor the fallen soldiers. Yom Hazikaron is a day of quasi-avelut, or quasi-mourning, but it’s more than that. It’s a time to express gratitude to those who gave their lives defending the State of Israel and to those brave soldiers who currently risk their lives for Israel. Thinking about these soldiers, we realize something profound: Israeli youth are incredible. They possess an unbreakable spirit. They all want to fight for their country, for the nation of Israel, and for the people of Israel. They are passionate, patriotic, and proud Jews.

And then I see the youth in America commemorating Yom Hazikaron and celebrating Yom Haatzmaut. Marking these days is a crucial part of experiential Jewish education in modern orthodox Yeshivot and shuls. There are parades, kumsitzes, concerts, flag dances, and heartfelt tefillot. There is a deep connection between American yeshiva day school students and the State of Israel. We have successfully transmitted this thick connection to Israel to the next generation of American yeshiva day school students.

So, yes, the youth scare me. The youth in the West Bank and Gaza and the youth in progressive circles in America scare me. But the Jewish youth, both in America and Israel, give me hope that our future is bright.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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