The tumultuous events of the Middle East may continue to reverberate from the insecurity and tribal impulses of men addicted with power and politics. But on the ground, and too often in the earth, remain the persons who actually settle these spiraling bursts of biblical conflict and apocalyptic bloodletting: the young people who are either forced or coerced to wield the weapons and to kill others.
The Army of Israel is not perfect, but it does believe in the purity of its children.
Judaism properly taught and expressed has a clear refrain, encoded from scripture and rehearsed in the Talmudic literature: we are all made in the image of God. Moreover, the rabbinic tradition has a powerful commentary on why God created us one by one, as evoked by the narrative of Adam and Eve. “To teach us,” wrote the sages, “that no one may claim that he is superior to any one else.”
Today I wish to acknowledge the innocence and the humanity of all the children on all sides of this conflagration being carried on too much “in the name of God.” As much as I believe in Israel’s absolute right to be secure from the terrorism, the rockets, the hatred, and the marginalization of the Jewish people that are the stamps of the 100-year war of the Arab world against us, I stand by the humanity and innocence of every Palestinian child caught in the middle of this tragedy.
I can’t speak for what the parents and elders are feeling on the other side of this spectrum, though it is dreadfully clear that they grieve perpetually for their children killed in these battles. The exception to this may be in the category of those Palestinian mothers and fathers who have publicly stated their pride in their pubescent boys and girls who have committed suicide bombings in the name of some cause that—by its very nature of extended murder and senseless sacrifice—defies any logic that was born in creation.
The Palestinian people deserve a safe homeland, one touched by grace and law and hope, as much as every Palestinian child deserves a home dedicated to life. I know this because this is what my childhood friends and I experienced when I lived in Israel as a young boy.
Already, a number of international commissions have stated that Israel’s military used uncommon restraint and care to restrict civilian casualties in this latest round of Gaza battling; no such judgment is pending on the Hamas terrorist syndicate that has now fired over 10,000 deadly missiles at Israeli school yards, shopping malls, and hospitals. So many times, religious clerics—spiritual leaders in the Arab world that influence young minds—have publicly stated, effectively: “We know that the Jews love life so we will continue to haunt them with death.”
Beyond the infanticide that continues by Syrian authorities against their own people, this kind of pediatric murder code will only produce a multi-generational culture of carnage and anguish—amongst already warring Arab / Islamic communities.
The Army of Israel is not perfect, but it does believe in the purity of its children. That’s why it was named the Israel Defense Forces in 1948 and has never sent out adolescent mobs into the streets calling for blood.