July 14, 2009: This morning, prosecutors issued a serious indictment in the Youth Court in Rehovot against three 16 year old girls, city residents, accusing them of physically abusing their good friend, a 17 year-old girl. They are accused of holding a knife against her throat, extinguishing cigarettes on her skin and threatening to kill her, all because they suspected her of being romantically involved with the boyfriend of one of the accused.
Seedy, isn’t it?
There is something deeply disturbing about seeing young people in Israel- particularly young women- sliding into depraved indifference. We’re talking about a society in which people still stop to pick up hitchhikers and money is passed hand-to-hand from the back of the bus to the front to pay the fare!
But come on. Israel is not Biblical Disneyland, anymore than it is the Evil Empire (though there are those who seem determined to characterize it that way). It is a real country with real people who have real problems. It’s a modern Western culture, with all the good and bad that goes with that. At the same time, it is a crossroads, a fault line where modern and traditional , the Middle East and the West meet and sometimes clash.
Israel has its crime families and its everyday heroes, its crooked politicians and its straight-as-an-arrow idealists. It has its stereotypes and it has its stereotype breakers… And aren’t teens everywhere somehow compelled to fill that role?
I helped instruct two IMPACT Self-Defense for Teens courses over the last several months: one in Beersheva for a group of 18-19 year old girls from the Ethiopian community and one in the Etzion Bloc for a group of 14-17 year olds referred through the local “Social Welfare” Office. I was expecting stereotypical At-Risk Teens. At-Risk Teens generally arrive late if at all with a life-is-tough-but-I’m-tougher attitude. Winning them over is half the battle. The staff was pumped and ready. Yet, as it turned out, each of these girls was more helpful, polite and appreciative than the next. Not at all what we expected.
I guess it all serves as a reminder to constantly re-examine our assumptions and maintain the flexibility we need to deal with people as they are, not as we wish they were, nor as we fear they might be.
As for the victim of the incident described above, a few pieces of advice: 1) stay away from your friends’ crushes, 2) get yourself some new friends and 3) take a good self-defense course. You are lucky to have gotten out of this in one piece. We’d like to help you stay that way.