Teenagers in Israel: Just can’t hold them down

I knew about the kidnappings before they were in the news.

The boys were kidnapped from right next to my daughter’s school in the region of Gush Etzion, a place which my daughter stands at all the time with her friends, waiting for a lift home when they want to get home and there is no other way to get there.

You see, that’s the thing about raising teens in Israel. Teenagers living in Israel have way more independence and mobility than any parent in America could ever imagine even within the boundaries of their extreme comfort zones. Maybe it’s because kids here don’t have cars, parents don’t have cars and parents work long hours far from home and kids don’t have licenses and so on and so forth.

Maybe it’s simply because parents don’t want to pamper their children and want them to learn independence instead of driving them all the time from point A to point B whenever they want to go out. Parents who bring their families to Israel want them to live and experience a different lifestyle than they did before and perhaps teaching them independence is part of the package deal.

Ironically enough, that Friday morning I placed a call to the mom of a friend of my 10 year old, wanting to discuss with her the boy’s summer plans. I wanted her to know that I didn’t feel comfortable letting the boys go to the sports camp in Alon Shvut, the yishuv right near where the boys were kidnapped, simply because I work a full day in Jerusalem and if it should happen that the boys would miss their bus back to Efrat I can’t go and get them and I don’t want them hitchhiking.

Note: Hitchhiking within the bounds of our Yishuv of Efrat is a completely different ballgame (more on ballgames to follow).

But from the first moments of the call I could tell by the sound of her voice that something was not quite right.

She had seen a Jewish publication that morning asking for people to pray for the three boys who went missing and one of the mothers has a very unique Jewish name so she knew who they were right away. She also knew that it was not good news and that the boys weren’t just acting like teens by sleeping in late after a Thursday night on the town.

I still think about that Friday morning, sitting at my son’s baseball game looking at the cousin of one of the boys who was kidnapped, sitting so sadly on the bench, not his usual bubbly self. That’s the thing about teenage boys, all they want to talk about is girls and sports and all of the normal things that are of interest to boys that age.

But that morning he wasn’t talking.

My son even asked me to say something to him to cheer him up but I just didn’t know what to say. So I continued to cheer the boys on in my usual embarrassing motherly manner because I love their games and I love them and their sportsmanship and energies that I am privy to experience as a spectator on the sidelines.

Even when it came to sharing the news of the kidnappings with my kids I hesitated sharing such heartbreaking news. But regardless of my own hesitations, they already knew because that’s how things roll in a Yishuv especially amongst kids.

All that was left was to have a serious talk with my older teens about hitchhiking.

And then a few days later my son didn’t come home from school.

No one knew where he was.

This is a boy who used to push the boundaries of what is safe by going outside the Yishuv borders to go to the Wadi.

His phone went straight to voice mail.

We searched for him for a couple of hours frantically, our own search beginning two hours after school had already ended after I had returned home from work.

His father drove in quickly from Jerusalem while I frantically called his entire class list. We both seemed to find him at exactly the same time, two hours later, his father driving up to the baseball field in Efrat and me reaching a kid in his class who actually knew where my son was. Seems he went on an outing to his friend’s house outside of Efrat and then planned to return to watch one of the playoff games together.

He just didn’t think of calling me to let me know and, inconveniently enough, his phone battery was dead.

My fear surrounding his disappearance was even greater than usual since we had discussed that morning going to the light festival with the family after school and he was very excited about it.

It didn’t make sense for him to disappear like that.

Every parent knows, and has experienced, those feelings of intense relief wrapped up with a huge ribbon of anger when a kid is lost and then found.

My anger turned to frustration as I later sat on the steps of Mamila with my family and ranted.

I ranted about raising kids alone and about their lack of sensitivity to their parents love for them, and about how I want them to grow up and become independent so I can retire and go on a cruise and leave no forwarding address, or something like that.

I subsequently yelled at a young guy who asked me for charity for his wedding. I said to him, “You know, I am a single mom of five who works like an animal to support my family. I never rest and do whatever is necessary to make sure they have what they need and are safe. You are young and healthy so get a job and do the same.” Poor guy had to endure the bulk of my wrath for a measly 2 shekel donation.

And as I sat down to write this post, I received an SMS from the teacher of another of my teenage children (bless them) telling me that despite strict rules, they had left their school and hitchhiked home.

I called to confirm that they had made it home safely:

“Hi Ma. Yah I’m home. What’s the problem?”

And so I look to the parents of the boys who have been holding it all together, and who seem so refined despite their intense pain (and who don’t yell at beggars) and I just hope and pray for them that the boys are returned home soon so that their parents can feel those intense feelings of love and relief, hug and kiss them like crazy and then ground them for the rest of their lives.


About the Author
Devora Mason is a single mom of five who works in business development focusing on unique Israeli technology,and Innovation, specializing in subjects from AR/VR to the stars and back! Her life experiences lead her to write about social issues and people that she encounters in Israel. As a consultant she enjoys her work with Israeli startups and corporate entities and is currently the VP of Global partnerships at StellarNova, a female founded startup focusing on STEM blended education and media content for kids.