On our eighth morning in Israel, the morning before the Pesach seder, my husband Oded told me he wanted to return to the United States. Just a few hours before we sat to recount the story of the Jews exodus from Egypt and return to Eretz Israel, Oded’s statement came as a shock. What could make him want to leave Israel only days after arriving? It took us months of conversations to make the decision to come here in the first place. Oded dropped constant reminders of all that is good in Israel in the hope that he would convince me: the beautiful weather, the coffee shops that serve not only delicious coffee but freshly cut salads, the ice cream, the proximity to friends and family. The list went on and on and on…for years. So after all of his convincing, what could make Oded so quickly retract his decision (and our extensive and expensive move)?
This morning the news reported on a story of a couple of friends who played an April fool’s hoax in which they reported a kidnapping to Israeli police. The police arrived to find one of their friends gone and despite an incomplete story, the police initiated an exhaustive search including 2,000 soldiers, helicopters, and command centers that cost the country millions of shekels. After 10 hours and multiple searches of neighboring Palestinian houses and cars, they found the “missing” friend with his sleeping bag and a supply of canned food.
After what Israel has been through in the last year, this hoax seems utterly insensitive and senseless. While those involved will be tried and reprimanded, the question remains as to what led them to trick their families, friends, and country. Israel is a place that looks out for their own and in this situation, after the kidnapping and deaths of three teens–Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal–in 2014, the country opened up its most serious search.
I immediately understood Oded’s reaction. While there is much he loves about his country, there are also things that bother him. The actions of these young men felt below the belt, and his concern was for our kids, Aviv and Maya. Children learn so much from their friends. No matter how hard we try at home to instill behaviors that we believe are correct, children follow their friends, even if they suspect that they may be erring in judgment. Of course American kids make bad decision all the time, but this story hit Oded in a guttural way. He was exaggerating about wanting to leave Israel (the ice cream really is that good!), but the story reminded both of us to think a little more seriously about how we raise Aviv and Maya and what lessons they learn from us and our interactions with the world.
David Ben-Gurion said: “When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we’ll be a state just like any other.” Ben-Gurion meant to reflect on the normalization of Jews and the state of Israel, but hours before Passover, I was struck with wonder if what these boys did was “normal,” or if we should hold the citizens of Israel to a higher standard. Is freedom the ability to make a bad decision, or is freedom the ability to criticize a fellow Jew and countryman? The work for me and Oded is to make sure that Aviv and Maya are able to reflect on the difference as they grow into critical little humans.