Hear that? It’s the sound of millions of parents worrying.
In case your news sources have been less than attentive, here’s what I can tell you:
Three teenage boys, ages 16, 16, and 19, were on their way home from boarding schools last Thursday night. They were kidnapped from a spot where they were hitchhiking. They haven’t been heard from since.
The Israeli government is fairly sure (or was?) that this kidnapping was carried out by an agent or agents of Hamas, a known terror organization and now-partner in a “unity” government ruling the Palestinian Authority. It’s unclear what the motives were here: prisoner exchange, as the Israeli government capitulated to in order to free Gilad Shalit, or simply terror.
I can’t even explain how horrific this is on so many levels.
First of all, these boys are civilians. Soldiers are known targets and are well aware of this. They are subject to rules, but also carry guns and are taught how to handle BEING a target. These kids are teenagers, learning in high school or yeshiva. I guarantee you that they were going to BE soldiers, some day. The religious Zionist community is extremely committed to serving in the army. But they are kids, still; they were trying to get home for the weekend.
Here are some more things you need to know, just in case you have been reading the news and have some questions:
- High school in Israel starts in 7th grade.
- Partial (sleeping over two nights a week) or full (Sunday-Thursday) boarding schools are common, especially for religious boys.
- You can apply to any high school in the country; it’s not districted. If there is a curriculum or a teacher or rabbi that particularly speaks to you, you apply to that school.
- While public transportation in major population centers like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa — and between them — is excellent, much of the rest of the country is extremely underserved.
- The legal driving age is 18; you can begin lessons at 17.
- Cars are extremely expensive; import tax is approximately 100%. Gas is extremely expensive; figure $7-8 per gallon.
- Hitchhiking is legal and simply how people, especially young people without their own cars, get around “between” infrequent or insufficient bus service.
These boys were among the oldest in their families of many siblings. They shouldered a lot of responsibilities besides being high school students, and were, as is expected of most Israeli teens, fairly independent. They were taken from a hitchhiking post that is near many Jewish communities of various sizes, but also near the biggest supermarket in the area, where Arabs and Jews work and shop together.
It is not viewed as a “dangerous” area, though I guess how people feel about it depends on your perspective. We’ve passed this junction dozens and dozens of times.
(Miss M and me at the Pinat Chama, within sight of the kidnapping location. The Pinat Chama offers refreshments, hugs, and words of encouragement to soldiers passing through this area. It is staffed by volunteers.)
Anyway, now Israelis have united in worry. For the welfare of these children. Who, regardless of your political leanings, are not combatants and do not deserve this.
There have been country-wide prayers. Soldiers who have been called to the area to look for them; and an unending shower of support for them in the form of cakes and treats, if my Facebook feed is to be believed.
But I feel so discouraged – the people who took these boys are either terrible people or regular people under terrible influences. The disconnect, for me, between prayer and their safe return is huge. I can’t figure it out. I feel like the machinations of power in this situation are beyond divine influence. Which is blasphemous, I’m sure, but there it is.
(Which is not to discourage anyone else. If it’s good for you, makes you feel like you’re doing something, anything!, that’s great – that is what we all want to feel.)
From the second they were taken, they were changed people. With every minute, every day that passes they recede from us. As a parent, as a human being, this makes my heart break.
More things I would like to call your attention to:
There are people besides the soldiers who are risking their lives because of this event. Israeli Arab teenagers, two of them, who have been threatened from within their own communities because of speaking out, publicly, to return the boys, and casting Israel’s democracy in a positive light. This makes my heart break.
Palestinian children celebrating the kidnapping with sweets and a three-fingered salute, representing the three captives. This makes my heart break. Because to quote Denis Leary: “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old. Do you know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” Is this the next generation of peace partners?
These are just adding to the pile of sad. No matter your religion or your religiosity, any parent can surely understand what it would mean to have a child go missing. To have an empty place at the table. To have a huge hole in your heart. It is a small country; the connections run faster and deeper. Even though we have been here for less than five years, someone I know lives in the same small community as one of the boys. Lather, rinse, repeat until the whole country is drawn in.
Thank you for reading this. I know I have glossed over all the political issues, and there are many, because that is not the heart of the matter. Three boys, who we now know and love like our own children, are missing. They should be returned to their families and their nation.
Note: there are literally dozens of news, blog, and opinion pieces from the past week of coverage on the Times of Israel. I couldn’t decide which to link, so I haven’t included any. But if you have a spare few minutes, there are many thoughts there from different viewpoints.