We are the cowards; our children are brave

Within this same old, there is also something very young: the young Gazans and the young Israelis

An IDF soldier stands next to an armored vehicle in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Gaza Strip border, Israel November 12, 2018 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
An IDF soldier stands next to an armored vehicle in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Gaza Strip border, Israel November 12, 2018
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Our war with Gaza began 17 years ago, in 2001, when the first Kassam rocket was launched into Israel. Since that year, there have been three wars and one March of Return, countless military operations, Israeli targeted assassinations and air force attacks, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets and mortars, tens of tunnels, and hundreds/thousands of incendiary balloons/ kites/ condoms. Thousands of Gazans and hundreds of Israelis have been killed in these hostilities; many more have been physically and/ or psychologically wounded.
Since the Gaza protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed approximately 220 Palestinians and wounded more than 18,000 people. On the Israeli side – the numbers of severely traumatized people are steadily rising. The resilience centers that offer psychological help for trauma victims do not have enough therapists to deal with the demand.
Same old, same old.
However, within this same old, there is also something very young: the young Gazans and the young Israelis. For this is a war of children and teenagers. They are the ones doing most of the fighting – on the Gaza side and on the Israeli side – and they are the main victims – on the Gaza side and on the Israeli side.
Gaza is young – very young. 45% of the population is 14 years old or younger; over 21% are aged 15 to 24. That means that two-thirds of the Gaza Strip population is under the age of 24; 71% is under the age of 30. Some 28% of Israel’s population is under 14 and the median age is 30. When you see the videos, photos and news reports of the Palestinians on the fence – most are kids. You can easily pick out the 12- and 13-year-olds. When we see photos, videos and news reports of the Israelis running for cover, or being engulfed in the smoke from the burning tires, they are of the kids.
We – the adults in Gaza and in Israel – should be ashamed. They – the Palestinian adults – are using their kids to fight their fight at the border. Not all of the kids are sent to participate in the protests; many have chosen to go to the border on their own to protest the fact that they have had no clean water to drink, only a few hours of electricity a day, almost no medicines, and sewage running through their streets. They go to the border to protest their dead-end future. Their kids are participating in the March of Return, claiming the right to return to the homes that their great grandparents lost in the 1948 war. These kids believe that they have nothing to live for, so they might as well go down fighting.
We on the Israeli side send our 18- and 19-year-old soldiers to fight those children and teenagers on the other side of the border. We expose our children – our babies, toddlers, children and adolescents – to the smoke of the fires and the red alerts of the rockets. We keep living in the communities near the border and by doing so endanger our kids every day. We let them breathe in the toxic smoke, and train them to run quickly for cover when there are rockets. We talk about how bad this situation is for them, but we do nothing to end this danger.
This week, our kids, on this side of the border, also had their own march – The March of ‘Let us Live in Quiet’. Teenagers disobeyed their teachers and principals, skipped school, and led a march to Jerusalem. As they walked from the Negev to Jerusalem, hundreds and thousands of Israelis joined them.
The Palestinian kids in Gaza and the Israeli kids living near the border with Gaza are mainly 17 years old and younger. They were born after 2001, when this dangerous and stupid war began. They have lived their entire lives in war.
Where are we – the parents and grandparents of these kids? We are letting them fight our fight. We are letting them live lives of danger, because we are too proud, too pigheaded and too determined to keep seeing the other as the ultimate enemy who has no right to this land. We – Palestinians and Israelis – are willing to continue to endanger our children, so that we can continue to proclaim that we are right, that God is on our side and that justice must be served.
Justice must be served, but it is not our children’s responsibility to make this world just. It is ours – the adults.
We, the adults, are cowards. Our kids are the brave ones. They are risking their lives, minute after minute, day after day, year after year and decade after decade, as we adults continue to hold on to the toxic ideology and beliefs that the “other” on the “other” side does not deserve to live in peace and dignity. Shame on us! If we truly cared about our kids, we would end this war and find the ways to live in peace and dignity with one another. If we would stop being cowards, then our children would not need to be so brave. If we would be brave, we would tell our children how sorry we are for all the pain we have caused them, how ashamed we are that we let them down, and promise to protect and love them from this day forward by ending this war once and for all.
The writer is a social psychologist and a faculty member in the School of Social Work at the Sapir College.