This case is one of the strangest in the Israel’s legal history. A dozen years after homes were built in Netiv Ha’avot, a neighborhood of Elazar in Gush Etzion, Peace Now appealed to the High Court to destroy the homes based on questions about the status of the land on which they were built.According to a special unit of the Civil Administration, which examines such issues, tiny sections of the land, sometimes only a foot or two were in dispute.The disputed portions did not belong to an Arab, nor were there any valid Arab claimants, but there seemed to be a problem of registration. The homeowners offered to remove the disputed area from their property, if necessary.The state, which is usually very strict about such matters, asked for time in which to properly register the disputed portions.Three High Court judges, who are well known for their biased agenda, rejected all compromises and ordered that the homes be destroyed entirely – even the areas that were deemed legal.This seems to be a case in which there were no winners – except Peace Now. Fifteen homes were destroyed only to honor a High Court ruling.And, typically, the Court refused to explain why such a draconian decision was necessary, especially since no one benefited and many were hurt.For the thousands of young Israeli Jews, mostly teenagers, who came to demonstrate against the destruction, and even for some of the hundreds of police sent to implement the destruction this was a powerful learning experience. Questions about the role of the court and its decision were not abstract and theoretical; this was about The State of Israel – and the answers were disturbing. Everyone had read about it on their cell phones and had heard about it from the media; Members of Knesset and community leaders joined the protest. They came together to demonstrate against what seemed to be an absurdity which was demanded by the High Court. This was a lesson in judicial arrogance.For some youngsters this was their first experience in confronting the system. Others were veterans of other destructions carried out by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria and police with the backing of the High Court: the Jewish community of Amona and nine homes in Ofra were destroyed based on false claims that the land belonged to Arabs. But the High Court, which does not examine evidence as its procedure, ordered the entire community destroyed. And, as “the court of last resort,” there is no possibility to appeal.Although the young protesters at Netiv Ha’avot knew that resistance would ultimately fail, they felt compelled to do something. For them, it was a way of establishing their identity, self-respect and integrity.And, although painful, it was redeeming. It was a very real ‘coming of age.’ A hundred or more young girls were packed into one of the homes slated for destruction.Surrounded outside by heavily armed grim-faced police, the girls sang songs from Psalms, pledging their faith and asking God to hear their cries for help; the songs and their voices reminded me of girls in the synagogue of Neveh Dekalim in Gush Katif before they were evacuated.And, similar to the expulsions in Gush Katif, as they were led out of the building by police officers the trauma showed on their faces – in shock, weeping, holding on to each other, or clinging to nearby adults for comfort.Their tears scrape away at their naiveté. They are learning the hard way, in pain, and maybe that is the best way to learn about the world which they will inherit and inhabit, a world which will bring them joy and sadness, with bonds of friendship and commitment, and betrayal and disillusionment.Hundreds of boys were holed up in another building, singing, dancing outside, waiting for the police to begin their assault, their voices ringing with determination. They embraced with back slapping and anticipation. They knew that the more they resist the greater incentive for police violence. It’s a way of proving one’s manliness. In a few years, they will be entering the army, learning a different way of manliness, and probably not long afterwards, finding a job, marrying and starting a family. Another kind of manliness.I am overwhelmed by what these kids are experiencing, and at the same time, I am in awe of their courage and commitment – the most explicit expression of what characterizes Israeli society.Yes, they have cell phones and want to achieve – but they also feel a sense of responsibility and a willingness to sacrifice for something more than their own pleasure. They are creating their own awareness, a struggle for meaning and purpose, building character. In a world consumed with selfishness and cowardice, they are the future of Israel and the Jewish people in Israel.The test of any democracy is not its ability to enforce its decisions, but that its decisions and laws are just and reflect the will of the people, are based on consensus and the values upon which the state is founded. Respect for institutions of the state cannot be based on its authority, but its mandate to rule; as Abraham Lincoln said, “of the people, by the people and for the people.”When the protesters at Netiv Ha’avot read or hear about “Law and Order” they will have a first-hand experience about what it means – and what it does not mean. The State of Israel has taught these young people a harsh civics lesson which they and we will never forget.The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist in Israel.