I was in Jerusalem earlier today, having split briefly from my homebase in Kfar Saba to Jewliciously crash a wedding with Laya, and as I’m trying to recover from my dislike of the Old City (but that’s a whole other post), I decided this morning that I would do some touristy kinds of things in an attempt to avoid the great destructive black hole of the Heritage House/Aish ha-Torah/Shanah b’Yisrael Anglo Old City experience.
So it was with this noble goal in mind that I found myself wandering around atop the walls of the Old City, which not only offer impressive views but happen to be fairly empty of people and therefore one of the least likely places (outside of the heart of the Muslim Quarter) in the entire Old City to be approached by somebody asking you if you’re interested in learning at Aish ha-Torah. But I digress. As I walked above Shaar Yafo, a huge crowd of children, maybe five or six years old, came through the gate led by a young religious guy, probably a religious school trip. But what distinguished these children is that every single one of them wore a bright orange T-shirt and each sported at least three orange ribbons tied to various parts of their body.
And that’s when it hit me. I’ve never seen an active anti-disengagement activist who wasn’t a kid. Sure, people of all ages have ribbons on their cars, but the people standing in busy intersections handing out the ribbons are almost always religious boys, 12 or 13. The people standing on corners or behind tables in the Old City passing out bumper stickers? Seminary girls who have barely cleared bat mitzvah. Even the people violently taking over Palestinian houses in Gaza were teenagers.
How can a five year old be anti-disengagement? What does a five year old know about the world outside of his house? What kind of parent allows their five year old to become a walking anti-disengagement billboard? What kind of school organizes a trip where they tie orange ribbons to kindergarteners? And as far as the kids who pass out the ribbons, maybe in Judaism a thirteen year old is legally considered an adult, but would you trust the political opinion of one? Of course not — none of these kids grew into anti-disengagement activism because they carefully weighed the issues and independently arrived at the anti-disengagement conclusion. They’re out there in the middle of busy intersections because their parents, rabbis and teachers told them to go.
So why didn’t the parents, rabbis and teachers go out there themselves? Why aren’t they standing in traffic? Why aren’t they behind the tables? Why aren’t they debating with their opponents? Why are they sending children to do the job of adults?
It takes a special kind of coward to send out his children to fight for him. Anti-disengagement activism is not the fight of five year olds, it is the fight of mature adults. And it is a foreboding sign that they are nowhere to be found.