Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our Youthful Backyard

By Zvulun Orlev

“Wild Weeds” in the Backyard

We have in our midst young men and women who gain strength from generation to generation in the path of “Torah and Labor,” and we are rightfully proud of them. The disseminating of the values of religious Zionism within our land is to the credit of these people, and it can be viewed as a success of the religious education they received in their families, from the Chemed religious school system, in the yeshivot and IDF prep schools, in our youth movements, in our communities and settlements. Credit is also due to such religious Zionist organizations as Emunah, the Kibbutz Hadati, and others.

As opposed to our wonderful youths, which number about 250,000 students in all the educational institutions combined, there are a few hundred youths, including a tough kernel of no more than a few dozen, who have abandoned the yoke of authority and the discipline of their parents, their rabbis, and their educators, ignoring the public leadership and the laws of the land. They have written their own set of national values, one that is foreign to our Torah and our nation. We cannot ignore the violent struggle of these youths in the synagogue of Amona against police and soldiers, in defiance of the calls by rabbis and community leaders to refrain from violence. The image of the destroyed synagogue is a view of our own young backyard. We can see in sharp detail the image of those who refuse to accept any authority.

What did we do, how did we react to the destruction? Except for a handful of leaders and rabbis we continued with our regular routines as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Some of us reacted calmly: They were twenty fools, they are alone, let the police take care of them. Some of us said, there is nothing we can do, we have no other course of action. Some people stayed away from controversy, saying: “They are not from among us, they are not religious Zionists” – it is not our responsibility to comment on their behavior.

However, this “backyard” causes tremendous harm, first and foremost to the young men and women themselves. Their actions lead to terrible damage to their families, their communities, to religious Zionism as a whole, and to the country. These backyard people do not suffer from damage in terms of intelligence, cognizance, emotions, or the spirit. Their head is distorted, and their soul is totally corrupt in terms of actions and values. I am sorry to say that there are some mature adults and organizations which see them as legitimate, lend them their support, encourage them, and even make use of them for their own distorted goals. Government authorities do not prosecute them fully, and the educational and therapeutic institutions have not organized properly in order to stop their downward trend and to bring them back to normative living.

Take on the Responsibility

What should we do? First of all, we must not abandon our responsibility for them and for us to search for ways to bring them back to the fold, or at the very least to prevent others from joining them. They indeed grew up in our families (including some of the most prominent and important ones), they have been living in our towns, they were educated in our youth movements and our yeshivot. They are our biological children, they are our students and members of our youth clubs. No normative family or strong community has immunity that will guarantee that such wild plants will not grow up among us. If we remain indifferent, not only will they not disappear but they will gain strength and increase their numbers without limit.

The good news is that behavioral distortion and corruption of the spirit and values of the youths can be reduced to a minimum and even corrected by proper treatment. There are educational and therapeutic models which have been shown to be capable of coping with this phenomenon. We have in our midst excellent professionals who have demonstrated successes in treating these youths. Even though we have not yet developed enough suitable places for them, there are some therapeutic institutions within religious Zionism which have shown impressive results in this matter.

What is still lacking? It is broad recognition and an awareness by us all about this problem. Rabbis, educators, and public leaders must all band together to relate to the situation. Just the acts of awareness and taking on responsibility will help to reduce the dimensions of this backyard. Awareness, responsibility, and recognizing the seriousness of the problem will guarantee that we commit the necessary resources.

Rav Kook wrote: “The objective of education is to guide a person into a proper path, whose central focus is to make him into one who is good and upright... It is clear that at times to go beyond the strict limits of the law becomes the law itself.”

It is clear that we are bound by a mitzva to dedicate our educational, spiritual, social, and financial resources to the cause of bringing our youths back to their proper form.

Success in this matter depends first and foremost on our efforts, not on the youths themselves. Let us make the effort, and we can succeed!

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