Where have all the young men gone?

State set in motion alienation of significant part of Israeli society from its institutions.

moshe arens 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
moshe arens 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
'Where have all the young men gone... When will they ever learn?" Pete Seeger, the American troubadour, used to sing. Israelis can nowadays join with a refrain that runs as follows: "They've become juvenile delinquents and gone to Hebron... When will they ever learn?" Everything that needed to be said in condemnation of the criminal behavior of the youngsters with the flying ear-locks who gathered around the disputed building on the way to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and engaged in vandalism, attacks against Palestinians in the area, and against the police that was called in to restore order and evict then from the building, has already been said. For a long time all Israelis will continue to feel ashamed that Israeli young men and women committed these acts. One question will stay with us: who are these youngsters, most of them raised in religious homes, homes of Zionist idealist settlers in Judea, Samaria, and Gush Katif, children from families that have in recent years sent their sons to the elite units of the IDF to become exemplary soldiers and officers? Where and how have they gone wrong? Where are the sociologists and psychologists who will provide the answer to this question? WHILE AWAITING the results of such research, one can venture some educated guesswork. The turning point that sent these youngsters off on a deviant tangent was most probably the disengagement from Gush Katif, the uprooting of 8000 Israeli settlers from their homes, and the use of the IDF to carry out this forcible evacuation. In many ways it was the original sin, from which Israel will continue to suffer for years to come. The blow, which was directed at the settlers in Gush Katif was felt by all the settlers in Judea and Samaria and their families as being directed at them, especially as the prime minister stated that it was the intention of the Kadima-led government to continue the process by evacuating settlements in Judea and Samaria. The youngsters in the settlements looked to their elders to avert what they considered a catastrophe, and the elders, backed by a good part of the population of Israel, pleaded with the government and organized mass demonstration in the hope that wisdom would prevail. They stopped short of using violence to oppose the evacuation. No blood was shed in those traumatic days and nights in August 2005, not because of the sensitivity and determination displayed by the army and police, but because the leaders of the settlement movement decided to refrain from encouraging violent resistance to the removal of the settlers from their homes. Is it any wonder that many of the youngsters in the settlements considered their elders as having failed to protect their homes, and that some of them began considering other means of preventing the destruction of their homes in the future? What is really surprising is that the leaders of the country who had ordered the IDF to carry out the disengagement from Gush Katif, those simple-minded souls who claimed they were waging a crusade for a democratic Jewish State, nor the judges on the High Court of Justice who had approved the blatant violation of the civil rights of those being uprooted from their homes, seemed not to realize that they had set in motion a process of alienation of a significant part of Israeli society from the State and its institutions, on whose periphery a frustrated lunatic fringe would emerge. Nor did they realize they were creating a rift in Israeli society that would threaten the unity of the people of Israel. There are, of course, those among us who do not care. Those who hate the religious. They do not hate religious Moslems or religious Christians, they just hate religious Jews. They show great respect for the sites in our land holy to the Moslem religion, and the sites holy to the Christian religion, but don't give a hoot for the holy sites of Judaism. Taking steps that might alienate religious Jews living in the settlements in Judea and Samaria, or even their supporters living within the "Green Line," does not seem to concern them greatly. Jewish access to Hebron, the city of our forefathers, or to the Cave of the Patriarchs, or even to the Temple Mount, seems of little interest to them. But the rest of us know we are dealing with a serious problem. When sociologists and psychologists eventually get around to researching these developments, we may learn what lay behind the ugly scenes we witnessed recently. In any case they bode no good for our society. The writer is former minister of defense and former minister of foreign affairs.