The vandalism by more than a dozen Rosh Ha’ayin teenagers in their vacationing
teacher’s home is not the first incident of its sort, though this one is
cumulatively worse than the more common incidents in terms of its viciousness,
duration and premeditation.
Yet public reactions abounded with the usual
hackneyed handwringing, eye-rolling, preachy platitudes and ambiguous
apportionment of blame. It is safe to predict that nothing will come of all the
The bottom line is our societal inhibition to make the
buck stop with the parents. Until they are made responsible, their offspring
will continue to misbehave badly, if not to go on a rampage.
The boys –
who invaded their teacher’s home, partied wildly there, drank her liquor, ran up
debts on her credit cards, defecated everywhere, abused her dog, trashed and
ransacked the place – are all described as hailing from “normative homes.” They
didn’t wreak havoc in one foolish ill-considered spasm of youthful
Their nasty romp lasted for days, which rules out momentary
At the same time their young age is sure to shield them
from the full punitive force available to the judicial system. The custom
in Israeli courts is that the younger the delinquent, the more lenient his
sentence. The parents are already pleading for indulgence because the offenders
are “mere children.”
They thereby send the wrongest message possible to
their sons – as well as to the sons of all other parents – in effect telling
everyone that rowdiness is tolerable, excusable and forgivable.
parents and assorted experts from academia are sure to look for culprits
anywhere but in the homes where these vandals were reared, which clearly
shielded them from effective discipline and failed to impose upon them minimal
guidelines to acceptable conduct.
But attempts to censure the schools or
society in general are worse than cop-outs. They amount to issuing licenses for
more youngsters to throw off the last yoke of elementary civility.
is no point demanding from Education Ministry bureaucrats to wave their magic
wands and conjure up an instant solution. Elected officials, who have a
transient relationship with the education system, cannot be relied upon for
immediate panaceas either.
The problem will not go away while
permissiveness toward children, at home, school and in all public places
continues. This is not a uniquely Israeli problem, but one that plagues the
entire Western world where children’s whims are increasingly pandered to and
grown-ups fear to say “no.”
This is not a function of socioeconomic
deprivation. In fact, adolescent misconduct is frequently more pronounced in
relatively affluent communities.
Neither can the problem be ascribed to
overcrowded classrooms. Previous generations of Israelis attended even more
crammed facilities but were not violently disruptive. Anything goes was
not the norm.
The time has come to get back to basics at home and in
school. Both must become authoritarian to some degree, with zero tolerance not
only for violence but also for impudence, unruly conduct and
Israeli society almost prides itself on rearing ill-mannered
youngsters, verbally impolite, physically pushy and demanding from early on.
This is promoting collective sociopathic patterns, which are bound to manifest
themselves later on in life. Cheeky kids are not cute.
They are the ugly
Israelis of the future. They start out being fresh, go on to shove their way
past peers and elders and cheat on exams. They then become violent in school or
behind the wheel.
Nothing will improve till we undergo a profound change
Rosh Ha’ayin’s outrage can mark the beginning. The parents
of the loutish teens who inflicted misery on their teacher should not be allowed
to get away with anything.
They ought to pay to repair the damage caused
her home in full, down to the last agora, and they should pay her adequate
compensation for the anguish their boys wrought.
Only such no-nonsense
hard-line measures will help stem the tide. Teenagers will think twice if they
see that their crimes have consequences and parents will be more vigilant lest
they be left holding the bag. There is ample recourse for this in the law.