It was time for her to see the other side.
The rising generation of American Jews is increasingly alienated from Israel. They say they’re tired of the fantasy, a defensive story of half-truths. Yet many American Jewish community leaders, while wringing their hands over the lost generation, persist in the sanitized approach to teaching young people about Israel. They argue that it’s simply not possible to instill a love of Israel while exposing its faults. They are wrong.
I didn’t want to take my kid to the West Bank city of Hebron. A few years ago, a former Israeli paratrooper had guided me through the silent, “sterilized” streets of its old city, free of any Palestinian presence. I saw Hebrew graffiti triumphantly sprayed on sealed homes and shops, walked by the checkpoints that ensure complete separation of the Jewish and Muslim populations. Hebron is not an easy place to be — I wasn’t sure my 14-year-old was ready for it.
My family and I travel to Israel as often as we can. Our kids’ bedtime stories are tales of the struggles and triumphs of the Jewish people, our people. They have learned Hebrew as a living language. They love Israeli culture and food and they FaceTime their cousins in Tel Aviv nearly every day.
And we speak honestly and critically with them about what’s happening in Israel, just as we do about what’s happening in the United States. We talk about the miracles and the missteps, the dreams fulfilled and those unrealized. And now, at 9, 12 and 14, they’re old enough to begin to understand the complexities.
That’s why it was important to us, on our latest trip to Israel this summer with the Ikar community, that the kids walked the vibrant public squares of West Jerusalem and the sweltering corridors of the Old City, experienced Yad Vashem and rafted down the Jordan River.
And, when our group went to Hebron with the Israeli anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence, our 14-year-old came with us. She knew I was hesitant, but she insisted. She wanted to see the occupation for herself. “Trust me, Ima,” she said. “I love Israel. I need to see the other side with my own eyes.”