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.

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  • It *is* disgraceful but that is life in Israel, people are more into politics. Way more than in the US and this includes children. I believe there more youth political movements per capita.

  • Yeah, but dude: five year olds. Little kids are not like a car’s bumper. They’re not vessels for a political axe to grind.

    Or at least, they shouldn’t be.

  • Regarding the active demonstrations *during the day*…the adults are probably working. Bear in mind that the whole idea behind the intersection blocking is that rush hour traffic is blocked. That means that the adult anti-disengagement folks are probably trapped in their cars! Adults also have other responsibilities that teenagers do not have: children to care for, housework to do, etc.

    I don’t know what your status is here (tourist/oleh etc), but real life here is very like real life in the States–there is that 9-5 thang going on.

  • Using children is wrong… but if they’re not being used, then take notice. We are running away from a terrorist pseudo-state. Do we have to blame the children for not liking it?

  • Wow, people have jobs here? Really? I hadn’t noticed.

    But seriously, I still don’t see how that’s an excuse. Get some of those twenty-something yeshiva bochrim out there — most of them ain’t working the 9 to 5 (or at all), and the Old City is fulllll of them.

    And, uh, Daniel…what? You really think the five year olds are against running from a terrorist pseudo-state, or do you think mom and dad put on the Yehudi Lo Megaresh Yehudi T-shirt before breakfast because nobody will argue with a little kid?

  • I thing teen are more vulnerable to the hard fact that our expletive deleted enemies are beating us. So yes, some of us want our children to realize the gravity of the situation. Five yr olds included.

  • if i would’ve made the same remark on my website, i would’ve been bludgeoned with a verbal bat.

  • So make your children realize, fine, whatever. But don’t send them out to fight your battles for you.

  • translation: i’ve been to protests. i wasn’t fighting anyone’s battles. it’s not so black and white. some people just go because it’s part of the experience of their segment of society.

  • Michael, there are people that believe that the disengagement is the …end…of …the …world.
    (If I did not believe in the imminent coming of Moshiach, and I believed that the modern state of Israel was the “Tikvah Bat Shnot Alpayim,” I would also be going absolutely nuts over the first step to “Hit’Abdut L’Umit”) So, if a child in an orange shirt is an effective way to pull people’s heartstrings, then they would have to be crazy not to use them.
    And, if you think that it is ineffective, then you are reminding me of the Joke of the Schnorrer who says to Rothschild “look, I don’t come to your place of business and tell you how to bank, don’t you come to my place of business and tell me how to Schnorr.”
    BTW, have you ever read the book “exodus?” Do you think that the children that were starved to death in the hunger strike understood the complex political issues of “Anti-Bevinism”?

  • Remember, even if some people who have a certain opinion do stupid things, that doesn’t mean their opinion is necessarily wrong.

  • Here’s a common practice — Children are used by the yeshiva world to collect for different tzedakas. If they’re not bringing home a pushka for one tzedaka, then they’re getting adults to sponsor them in a something-a-thon for another one. It’s supposed to help children be aware of the world around them, i.e., that there are people (Jews, especially) who are less fortunate than them. But I think it still comes down to taking advantage of the innocent. Even if you could agree on the cause.

  • You’ve been AISHED.

    AISHed is a word we’ve been using in the active Jewish student population of Toronto to discribe the prostelatizing/kiruv (whatever) work of Aish HaTorah. For all the greatness of what they do there’s something unsettling about 40 kids who are there to learn about Hasbara being lectured in a room about why the Jews are right and the other religions aren’t.

    Then again… it did make the trip a hell of a lot easier. Is it wrong to use people greed to prostelatize/do kiruv?

  • The movement to liberate Soviet Jews made large-scale use of children and teenagers. Jewish day schools would take students to rallies in front of the U.N., the Soviet Consulate and Mission to the U.N. This effort was crucial to pressuring the USSR to free tens of thousands of Jews in the 1970s.

    Perhaps because I am one of those freed Jews, people like to reminisce to me about how they were taken to Soviety Jewry rallies. None seems traumataized or embittered by their use as a political tool: indeed, they’re all proud.

    In other words, taking children to rallies has a long Jewish pedigree. I think objections to the use of children to protest the withdrawl might have somethign to do with objections to the cause in which they are used, and not the use of children per se.

  • First of all Michael, Parents dress their kids up in all kinds of T-shirts etc, which is fine because the kids dont’ care anyway. I would hope pro-disengagement people wouldn’t take it upon themselves to lecture to a 5 year old anyway. And Aish is good!! Their a great organization, thats brings a great deal of spiritual enlightenment to many people in need of. Besides, learning Torah in Jerusalem is the real Jerusalem experience

  • Oponents of disengagement tend to have lots of children. If they couldn’t take their children with them, it would be impossible for the adults to demonstrate. Thus if they can’t use children, they in effect would loose their power of political protest.

    It shouldn’t be surprising that left wing protests have fewer children: the left has fewer children, period.

  • Aish sucks. They basically have money to spend on marketing, they are very very good at fund raising, masters at it. With money and motivated people you can do anything.

  • power to shem-tov. liberal democracy means we hold signs and protest. it’s not like we’re giving the kids guns and telling them to be terrorists. we’re instilling peaceful protest in the next great generation of israelis!

  • Children are not billboards. That said, I almost bought my infant nephew a t-shirt that said: “if you think I’m cute, you should see my aunt.”

  • I’m really glad you put up this post, it presents an interesting paradox. I think it comes from two sources. First, children will listen to whatever their parents/rabbis/teachers say, at least till they hit 13, and second, parents are more concerned about earning a living and getting their hourly salary

  • Little kids here collect money for cancer research, environmental protection and to help new immigrants.They are encouraged to be active- political. It is a national past time. Unlike apathetic Americans.

    You may see young people out on the street but you obviously don’t watch the news where there are (adult) spokespeople everyday representing Gush katif. Plus all the adults living there, raising money to buy the ribbons, and writing articles for the paper. Duh.

    Besides, don’t kids have a right to be upset if someone is taking away their home?

    BTW, my infant son has a Gush Katif tee shirt. He looks really adorable in it and I doubt that he is traumatized by the experience.

  • Hey Michael, I want to hear your rant about the Old City… and I also want to know if Jeff Seidel still harasses people at random places if they “got a place for shabbos”???

  • i really dont know. on the one hand i gotta say keep the children out of politicis cause adult make their own political choices but children shud be just brought up well and educated.
    on the other hand i remember when i was 8 n 9 my parents used to take me to anti-regime demonstration and i wud throw the rocks at the tanks and tear gas back at the police. and i remmeber how strongly i believed the the fight is right. i ve never had doubts and i neverfelt that my parents used me for their political agendas. i always thought they were mine own.
    the end result was that we won the freedom and i lost totally interest in politics for good – but this is just side comment.

  • Another factor contributing to the youngish demographic: the college-age people who would lead protests in most countries are in the army here. And the people spearheading the protests are Religious Zionists whose sons largely serve, so there is not a lot of “spare yeshiva guys” hanging around.

    This also explains why many of the protests seem overly populated with females.

    One of my earliest memories is being taken by my parents to one of the marches on washington to end the Vietnam war. The bits I remember have stuck with me, as an enduring education in my parents’ seriousness about moral and political matters. I don’t think that’s such a bad legacy.

  • Now now, Ben David, there are 1500 hesder boys out there who are of age and could be doing this. And the kids are kids. Summer is for camp, games at the beach, playing with other children. Summer for children is not for blocking roads and violating laws, especially when the adults aren’t there.

  • “One of my earliest memories is being taken by my parents to one of the marches on washington to end the Vietnam war. The bits I remember have stuck with me, as an enduring education in my parents’ seriousness about moral and political matters. I don’t think that’s such a bad legacy.”

    and thus, what i’ve learned from the french occupation of viet nam, is that the israeli occupation of the palestinian territories is a-okay! thanks mom! thanks dad!

  • I see that some people are implying that I’m only protesting the anti-disengagement movement’s widepsread use of children because I’m pro-disengagement. This is not the case. If I saw crowds of little kids in blue or twelve year olds standing around in every major intersection handing out blue ribbons, I would be similarly offended.

    But what offends me, to clear things up a bit, is not the use of children in protests per se. It us the sole use of children in protests to the point where the adults are invisible. If your parents take you to a rally, they’re involving their children in a cause they believe strongly in, which is normal. If your parents send you to a rally in their stead, they’re being bad parents.

    Sazilly is almost too condescending to respond to (if I was an apathetic American, as you so gracefully implied, would I be here?), but I will anyway. Cancer research, environmental protection and money for immigrants are not controversial. They are not battles. Anti-disengagement is a battle. Nobody’s sending their thirteen year old to lie down in front of traffic for increased aid to Ethiopian olim. Nobody’s son and all his friends are taking over houses to fight breast cancer. And yet, children are doing all these things for disengagement. And it’s not because they’re losing their homes, because these are kids in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv whose homes are not being evacuated. And as far as the adults being on the news, well, wouldn’t it be better, if kids are going to be utilized, that they be on the news and the adults out there, so to speak, in the line of fire?

    Ben-David, I don’t know when the last time you’ve been to Jerusalem was, but there are TONS of spare anti-disengagement yeshiva guys. Granted, not all of them are Israeli, but if the movement can use its own children for protest, why not grab a few committed Anglos to hand out ribbons?

  • It seems like an appropriate response to Muslims sending up their youths as homicidal terrorists I mean holy martyrs. And I’m guessing Israeli motorists would be much less inclined to run down five-year-old children than they would rabbis, so sending them into traffic seems safer all around for everyone, if you must send anyone into traffic.

  • Good point Rebecca. Their children are helping to kill civilians, but our children are engaged in civil disobedience. I remember how as a kid our schools would bus us to the Russian Consulate to protest. The people who lived nearby were certainly inconvenienced by the noise and the road blockage and I am sure the Russians weren’t happy that day me and my buddies shlepped into the city at night and lobbed blue and white paint bombs on their wall. We were 12. Oh well!

  • take it from one who has children. The children are very involved and usually their politics are very different or just different from their parents. Most Israelis bring up their children to be politically aware and active and to think for themselves – and now we are suffering the consequences.

  • Aish Ha’Torah Rocks! They are saving the Jewish people… while the rest of the Jewish world talks, they act. They create programs that actually help Israel and increase Jewish Identity and Jewish Leadership. Stop being so anti-Aish and go out and try to do something that will benefit Am Yisrael. Go inspire people instead of putting people down!

  • Moby (post 32) – never assume. My parents were typical NY liberal Jews at that point – they had not yet returned to Judaism. So I got the anti-war approach in my house.

    michael (post 33) – here in the Sharon area it’s all kids of at least junior high/post bar-mitzvah age. Consider how quickly the draft is upon Israeli youth, this is not too young for kids to be politically aware and active.

    And while it would be nice if we could completely insulate our kids’ childhoods from what’s going on around them in Israel, that’s not practical. My kids have friend orphaned by terror in their classes, and among our neighbors. My guess is that any kid living in Jerusalem is within less that 6 degrees of separation from a terror victim, and has thoughts of terror attacks impinge on their daily life (i.e. every schoolkid with an Egged bus pass…).

    If anything, political activity is a way for these kids to feel some mastery over their situation.

    And what else do most haredi kids do all summer but hang around on the streets? I don’t know of any parent who has canceled their child’s summer camp plans to send them out into the streets…

    In addition, we have been explaining to our children exactly why the political ploys Sharon has used to impose the expuslion policy are wrong. Even my 4th grader understands this. It’s really an incredible educational opportunity – for American olim, this really cuts to the core of what we hope to contribute to Israel: a clearer understanding of how a healthy democracy works. I sometimes feel like I’m living through the Boston Tea Party.

  • Michael you have a good point.

    The reason the parents aren’t out there themselves is because israel is not a democracy the parents are worried about their jobs.

    Look how they ban and stop protesters.

    After what happened to kach where they literally banned peoples views you can see why people are scared and why at some point Israel as it stands will be overthrown when the people have no choice- which is happening.

  • Michael –
    Thank you for making this valid point. I personally believe it is representative of how politics have branched out in israel. Sometimes I feel as if no one truly knows why they are fighting anymore but simply that they always have. A political ideology “pinned” on them since childhood – hate – hate which evolves into blind violence. Well, children become adults and thus the political statements matures into deeply rooted hatred and extreme violence. It seems the only way to stop or prevent such violence and hatred is to start educating young children so they can learn to co-exist with the brothers and sisters, jews and palestinians alike… or at least form their own opinions about the issues their people face.

  • Re. to # 17

    Aish does Not do proselytizing. They’re Not missionaries who try to convert people.

    They work with Jews who want to learn more about Judaism and grow spiritually.

  • Aish takes advantage of people, they get people to give them lots of money for their high paid employees. It really sucks big time this Aish movement. They focus only on well paid successful people, and they check which college someone goes to, they don’t approach just anyone. They are a deep and shamefull chapter in Jewish History. Plus they are one sided. They only teach orthodox dogmas, deligitimizing Conservative and Reform. It’s atrocious. I pity those who fall for their spiels and shtick. Oh so clever ads.

  • Anecdotal evidence.
    I was riding home from the Technion one Thursady afternoon and passed through the Zemach intersection. There was a small anti-disengagement rally there. They put up some sign. What struck me was that there about 10-15 kids – children, none older than 11 – standing on the side of the road and inside the intersection itself, giving away (selling?) orange ribbons. They weren’t brought to the rally. There were only a few adults there and most of them were standing farther away, holding a sign or just looking at people. They were the rally. Now, there were small children standing in the middle of a busy intersection, breathing exhaust and dodging cars, and if you’ve ever been to the Jordan Valley on a hot day you’ll understand when I say it was HOT – and they were standing in the sun.

    These people should have their children taken away from them. They don’t deserve to raise offspring.

  • Roman:
    These people should have their children taken away from them.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    The government has already tried that as a way of further choking any dissent.

    Does anyone think that a government that locks up 12 year old girls for 2 months has better values than parents who give their kids direct experience of the major political issue of the day?

    It’s called participatory democracy. And if we have to get Israel back to that standard one 12 year old at a time – that’s Ariel Sharon’s fault.

  • Good thinking, pops. “I don’t agree with the government, so kids should go to jail until the government changes?”

    I have a better idea, you dashing anti-establishment rogue, you: why don’t you get out there and lie in the road and why don’t you get jailed for your beliefs and in order to change the system instead of having the kids do it for you?

    What, so you have a job and can’t be out there waving the orange sign? Hey, if you’re willing to sacrifice the welfare of your children instead of sacrificing yours, I know some people in Ramallah I could introduce you to. You might get along.

  • Okay,
    if we’re talking about kids, and people who pass by intersections and assume that that split second exists all day long…

    Just some ramblings;
    – the orange (anti-expulsion) kids are volunteers, the blue (pro-expulsion) kids are paid workers.
    – the orange kids are rotated throughout the day and are usually given refreshments,
    – the orange kids are giving up their free time (succot and pesach as well as summer vacations) to volunteer for the cause, where are the blue kids? at the mall?
    – the adults who are not taking part in the protests/ribbon distribution are funding these initiatives by staying in the office currently,

    – when the bulldozers start rumbling, this will change.

  • michael (post #46): several answers:

    1)I didn’t see any limousine liberal lawyers and stockbrokers at the G8 protests, nor at the demonstrations surrounding the elections. Largely college-aged kids. In Israel due to the army this translates into high-school kids. Which is what I have been seeing here on the coast.

    2)My wife and I have participated in marches, in giving out material at intersections and shopping malls, and in door-to-door canvassing.

    3) This follows the same pattern as protests under other oppressive regimes. We in Israel have already seen the collusion of media and security branches of the government to ruin the lives of innocent people who protested. In most situations it is the young people who lead the protest, because adults cannot take the same risks.

    I haven’t seen anyone who looks younger than bar-mitzvah plus on the street corners, always with the presence of a teenager who looks within a year or two of the draft. My commute takes me across several intersections in Petach Tikvah, Hod HaSharon, Kfar Sava, and Ra’anana.

    4) You can’t judge by the haredim in Jerusalem. Everyone knows the Haredim are just baby factories, they are abusive parents, and the government should round up their children and ship them off to secular kibbutzim where they can replace the Thai workers while having the religion knocked out of them – kinda like was done to those equally smelly North Africans.

    For their own good, of course…

    …and just maybe these kids are out on the street because things really have reached a breaking point in Israeli society, maybe giving out orange ribbons on a street corner is nowhere NEAR as damaging to children as seeing the adults who should be protecting them allowing further terror, bus attacks, etc.

    Michael – you are operating based on an imagined veil of childhood innocence that terror has already torn from the children of Jerusalem. In the context, their participation may even be therapeutic. It’s certainly a good education in democracy.


  • You are totally wrong… I have not seen one person at an intersection in Tel Aviv under 18… I have no idea what you are talking about. everyone has ribbons… people of all ages

  • What I can’t understand is why nobody has been visibly protesting to free the 12-14-year-olds in prison? I mean, have there been protests that just weren’t covered by the media or has there truly been nothing?

    A well publicized rally calling for their release would probably garner a fair amount of international attention and reflect badly on the government. While it wouldn’t stop the disengagement it might certainly get the girls out. So why isn’t anyone standing outside the prison with a large placard?

    The only message this is sending is that the orange movement abandons its activists after they are captured and that will certainly affect the morale of future demonstrators.