The Most Spoiled Generation

I have a pet theory that much of the unreasonable kvetching and moaning we witness today is the result of an ignorance of history. That is, we complain about how horrible things are because we never learned or don’t remember how much worse the alternative was, or how horrible it used to be.

For instance, let’s take the vaccine debate. I recently had an argument with a mother who said it was the fault of another mother who took her baby out in public and let others breathe on him that their child got pertussis, was then hospitalized, and ended up with brain damage. It was this mother’s fault, not the fault of the mother who didn’t vaccinate her kindergarten aged kid, who then transferred the disease to her baby. This is the logical conclusion one would have to reach if they think we should all stop vaccinating. My mother remembers being kept at home for months at a time in the summer as a child to avoid Polio. Of course, the adults still had to leave the house so there was always a risk and they lived in terror despite their best efforts to insulate themselves. Yeah, let’s go back to that. That sounds like fun.

And how about haredi Jews who complain about the ‘anti-Torah’ attitudes of the state of Israel today? Are we forgetting the actually, actively, explicitly anti-Torah attitudes and policies of the pre-state secular Zionists? Are we forgetting the policy of Ben Gurion’s government to take Yemenite children from their parents and school them in a secular fashion to ‘modernize’ them? Are we forgetting policies such as making the army food kosher only as a temporary measure, because once they serve people would clearly drop their silly religious superstitions and then there would be no need? By comparison, the recent draft bill requires haredi soldiers to take a couple of years to serve the country in all haredi units, with mehadrin food and no women present, or to serve in various first responder roles in their own communities. It’s not that the ‘war against the Torah’ is being taken to a new level. It’s that the war is over. The majority now realizes that Torah Jews are not going away and decided it’s better to accommodate their needs than to continue to largely exclude them from Israel’s pool of human capital.

Speaking of life in Israel, how about that cost of living huh? How about the price of food? No matter how much better off we are as a relatively poor ‘rich’ nation than we were as a struggling, genuinely poor nation a generation or two ago, there’s always what to complain about. Don’t get me wrong. When I read about the cartels and other funny business that keeps a lot of prices artificially high here it makes me mad and I want it to change. But the overall material abundance we enjoy here in Israel has only increased by leaps and bounds and we should all remember when we whine about the price of a liter of gas, or a dozen eggs, that these commodities were rationed in the 50s, when the small Jewish state was truly in danger of financial collapse even if it managed to fight off its well armed and extremely belligerent neighbors.

And how about my fellow settlers, largely national-religious, who bemoan our security situation and limited ability to build? Rocks are thrown with some frequency on our roads. Molotov cocktails have been thrown on the highway to Gush Etzion. We are so safe that even one or two terror deaths a year feels like a lot to us, thank God, and may the situation only continue to improve. Never mind the insane dangers faced by the pre-state pioneers who would often be attacked by Arabs, die from Malaria, or fail to support themselves and have to flee altogether. Today we have flourishing Jewish communities throughout the land of Israel, and we are secure enough that we can afford to entertain debates on whether the soldiers at check-points are nice enough to the people passing through. Instead of having to risk death at the hands of angry Arab rioters as in the 1920s and 30s, setting up a tower and stockade overnight for protection, we have to wait a few years to get our building permits while the army protects us, and then we hire Arab laborers to build our villas cheaply. If Rav Kook could support the secular Zionist state-builders despite their often virulent anti-religious dogma and policies, he would surely see the situation today in the grand, historical scale which he favored, to be moving in a positive direction.

I know I’m sometimes guilty of whining about many of these issues myself, and I don’t think we should be silent and passive. But I often find an overall tone of cynicism and even hatred replaces reasonable criticism. Yes, there are problems. Security could be better. Prices should be lower. Vaccines should be more rigorously tested. Jews should be able to build without limitation in the entire land of Israel. But these are not wars, they are battles. The overall war, the improvement of the human condition and the bringing of ultimate redemption to the Jewish people and all humanity through the in-gathering of the exiles? Its going pretty well. So smile as you go to the protest rally. OK?

About the Author
Rabbi Eitan Levy is a tour guide and organizer in Israel. He grew up in Denver, Colorado, got a BA in philosophy at Sarah Lawrence, and rabbinic ordination at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. He loves to share his love of the Torah, land and people of Israel in writing, lectures, and tours. He lives in Tekoa with his wife and three little gremlins.