For the last five years I’ve enjoyed volunteering for conversational English with students at Kfar Saba’s Herzog High School, named for Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president. Herzog is one of four academic high schools lined up on the northern side of town. (There are also two ORT vocational high schools in Kfar Saba, as well as some private schools.)
Kfar Saba, with a population of more than 100,000, is a relatively affluent city in the center of Israel, ranked officially in the 8th of 10 socio-economic levels. Its population’s lineage may surprise American Jews, many of whom believe that Israeli Jews are very similar to American ones. I was surprised myself by the countries of origin of the students’ families that I interact with.
I usually speak with Herzog senior class students at the higher level of English, sometimes with seniors at the intermediate level, and occasionally with students in the second year of the three year high school regimen. I and others are tasked with getting the kids to speak English with me and between themselves. Subjects include preparation for presenting their “project” as the oral part of their English final exam, something specific that the teacher requests, or whatever I want.
We ‘tutors’ usually meet with 2-6 students at a time for two separate sessions one day a week. Sometimes we’ll do repeat sessions with the same class, but not always. My first question to the students is usually, “Where were your grandparents born?” The kids usually know the answer, but not always. So, what have I learned from the students’ answers? Here are my rough estimates:
25% are of North African ancestry: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and especially Morocco.
20% are from Turkey, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and especially Iraq.
15% from the Balkans: Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and especially Romania.
30% from W. Europe, Hungary, Poland, and especially Russia/Ukraine.
10% From Argentina, Ethiopia, US, UK, and Australia and others.
Some kids’ families have lived in Israel for generations. Some aren’t sure where some of their grandparents came from. I find it interesting that many marriages were between Jews from different continents. My conclusion is that Kfar Saba has a very mixed population and that “mixture” is unimportant for the high school students. I’m pretty sure that this conclusion describes Israel fairly well. Most differences between students are based more on economic status than on genealogy, since most kids’ parentage is quite diverse in many respects.
I can’t avoid saying that in the US, in the present “woke” climate, Jews are considered “white oppressors” by many people.Non-whites are considered “oppressed.” This is a major tenet of CRT (critical race theory), which has taken hold in the educational system. Congruent with that is DEI (Diversity, equity, and inclusion), which posits equity over equality. It is “preached” that equal results are the correct way to run a nation – not equal opportunities. This is not the case at Herzog and in another school, a junior high, where I also volunteer. Israel is truly a melting pot where race or skin color is not politicized. In Israel it’s estimated that more than 2/3 of Israeli Jews are of “mixed” ancestry.
[See Note below]
In the throes of a terrible war, I realize that many students that I’ve interacted with these last several years are serving in the army now, either on mandatory service or as “reserve,” veteran soldiers. Their units range from intelligence (cyber), to air power (planes, helicopters), to infantry (artillery. tanks, combat engineers, paratroops, guarding), and many special units, such as Oketz, the canine antiterrorist unit, or various reconnaissance units attached to brigades. And there are many other more mundane duties.
We know from experience that nearly all young people seem to give most of their attention to their phones, relying on them for non-stop updates from friends, games, and even news. Social media is the primary conduit for information for the younger generations. In this reality, there was fear that when called upon, these kids might not fulfill the necessary services which Israel relies on to defend itself. Our regular army is small. The mainstay of our defense is the larger reserve forces which are called upon when required.
I have written that prior to the horrific October 7 massacre that Israel was riven by opponents to prospective and actual reforms in the judicial system pertaining to the Supreme Court. An example of this follows: “Reservist members of an Israel Air Force fighter jet squadron said Tuesday that they will show up this week to their base as ordered, but only for conversations with their commanders, after sparking widespread consternation by announcing they would not attend training in protest of the government.
The pilots are the most prominent of a wave of reserves soldiers saying they will refuse to show up for service or training to express their objections to the coalition’s judicial overhaul plan as well as a recent settler rampage through a West Bank Palestinian town.”(timesofisrael.com) 3/7/23
With masses of Israelis protesting (mostly peaceably) in the streets daily and especially on Saturday nights, many feared Israel’s disunity and what might result. I reasoned that the only thing that could unify Israel was a war. Well, a brutal war happened and everyone required to show up did so with alacrity, as well as many others who weren’t required to.
What about our young people, aged from 18 years on up, who make up the bulk of the army conscripts? Well, they’ve proven themselves, despite some people’s fears that they would lack motivation. On December 16, international strategic advisor Ayelet Frish wrote: “Parents all over Israel are astonished by the bravery of their children. They are realizing that Zionism is still strong, maybe even stronger than ever before, as the true face of evil was exposed right at our doorstep. The young generation have proven that they are ready to sacrifice themselves for Israel. Today’s soldiers still communicate on Instagram and TikTok, but the messages that they are sharing are inspirational. They are posting photos and videos from IDF soldiers inside Gaza, and when seeing these images, one can touch and smell and feel their fighting spirit.”
On December 15, former Editor in Chief of the Jerusalem Post Yaacov Katz wrote:
“Four days after the barbaric Hamas attack, Lt.-Col. Tomer Grinberg, 35-year-old commander of Golani’s 13th Battalion, addressed his Golani fighters and said: ‘Battalion 13, you are heroes. In another 10 years, there will be another commander for Battalion 13, with hero fighters like you. Some of you will already be parents. He will scramble the battalion and talk about you and what you did, and he will show pictures of our fallen. In the end, we have learned that you are apparently not as spoiled as some thought and you are no less heroic than those who came before you. You are not the iPhone generation as some people said. Congratulations to each and every one of you, I am proud of each of you standing here, but this is just the beginning.’”
Several days later, while leading his men at the front in a battle in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, Lt.-Col. Grinberg fell in battle. You should know that IDF senior officers adhere to the “Follow me” maxim, leading their soldiers into battle from the front, not from the rear.
Interacting with Israeli youth these past several years has been a wonderful experience. The Israeli teenagers that I’ve met are friendly, bright, motivated, inquisitive, and all of what one hopes for. Israel hasn’t lost its “mojo,’ thank God. This war will not last forever, in the south and in the north, where Israel will ramp up its offense if Hezbollah doesn’t move far north of Israel’s border. Jews in the Diaspora should look to Israel for an example of grit and fierce determination to defend and advance our country.
Unfortunately, the way that Jew hatred has grown throughout the West, Jews everywhere need to be on guard and prepared to defend themselves. From what I’ve learned from the kids at Herzog, Israeli youth are willing and able to defend their friends, family, and homeland.
Note: Critical race theory holds that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. (britainnica.com)
Diversity, equity, and inclusion refers to organizational frameworks which seek to promote “the fair treatment and full participation of all people”, particularly groups “who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination” on the basis of identity or disability. (wikipedia.com)
Steve: In practice, DEI leads to mandatory bias training, required “loyalty oaths,” prejudice against Jews and Asian Americans (both minorities), useless college studies, and other egregious results.