Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens


Kidnapping anyone, anytime is always a violation of a basic human right. But is even more outrageous when done to children or teens who are particularly vulnerable.
So it is with shock and outrage that we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives respond to the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens who were returning from their study at a yeshiva in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
We demand the immediate release and safe return of those teens to their families!
We were shocked and outraged at the kidnapping of hundreds of Christian girls by Muslim fundamentalists in Africa, with the implied story that these girls would be raped (the functional equivalent of “forced marriages” along with forced conversions to Islam).
We are shocked and outraged when girls are kidnapped (or sold or persuaded by starving parents who see no other way to get money for their remaining starving children) into sexual slavery or forced marriages.
We are shocked and outraged when children or teenagers are forced into armies (whether through a supposedly “legitimate” draft process or through outright kidnapping) where they are forced to kill or be killed.
We reject any attempt to imply that somehow these acts are understandable given the oppressive conditions faced by the perpetrators. In the case of the Israeli teens some commentators have rushed in to remind us that there are thousands of young Palestinians, some of them younger than the teens who were teenagers, who sit in Israeli prisons or “detention camps,” without trials and sometimes for many months. Yes, this is also a human rights violation. But so what? It doesn’t justify or legitimate the crime committed against these Israeli teens.
There are those who have pointed out that the teens were attending a Yeshiva in a right-wing settlement and that that Yeshiva doesn’t teach about the humanity or the suffering of the Palestinian people, but instead justifies and defacto increases that suffering by participating in discriminatory practices that are part of the daily reality of the Occupation. Again, so what? No matter how reactionary the teachings, it is never appropriate to kidnap or inflict pain on others, except possibly in circumstances of immediate self-defense.
And these teens were not the perpetrators or the creators of the Occupation. They were children doing what their parents had brought them up to do and to be.
I’ve recently heard another such ridiculous attempt to “contextualize” this kidnapping. Just as, when Palestinian children have been shot or killed by Israeli forces enforcing the Occupation, some Israelis and American Jews have said (publicly and in a variety of Jewish newspapers) “these Palestinians don’t really care about their children, else they wouldn’t let them participate in activities that are known to be at risk,” so now some are saying that “Israelis don’t really care about their children, else they wouldn’t be sending them to study in a war zone in which violence against Palestinians is sometimes met by violence against Israelis – so anyone raising their children in the settlements or sending them to study in the Occupied West Bank really have only themselves to blame for whatever happens to them.” This reasoning is as obnoxious when applied to Israelis as it was when applied to Palestinians (or for that matter, when applied to parents who let their children get drafted into an army). The reality is that most parents whatever their religious, national, ethnic or racial backgrounds care equally and intensely about the well-being of their children, and the reasons that they get convinced to put their kids into situations of danger have little to do with how much they love their kids. When I signed permission for my own son to serve in the Israeli paratroopers, I was terrified and remained so throughout the time he was jumping from airplanes and serving in the Israeli army. I cared deeply for my son’s welfare and loved him intensely, spent all week waiting for him to return to our Jerusalem apartment just before Shabbat so I could wash his clothes and feed him home made Shabbat food. I’m not going to go into all the factors that led me to allow him to serve (“allow” because the Israeli military won’t allow an only child to serve in a combat unit without the signed agreement of their parent), but it certainly wasn’t lack of love. And I’ve spoken to many Palestinians whose children have been wounded or killed and they too care just as much about their children as any Israeli or American or any other parents on the planet.
For those of us who want to see an end to all this kind of suffering, it is appropriate for us to demand an end to all wars and all violence, and to an end of conditions that create this violence, including ending global poverty, ending the xenophobia and racism and homophobia and demeaning of “the other” (whether that other be Jewish Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever), and to urgently seek to end the environmental destructiveness that will soon become the source of more violence between “the haves” and “the have nots.” And it is appropriate to demand an end to the Occupation of the West Bank, to the occupation of Tibet by China and Chechnya by Russia and an end to every other unjust denial of rights to people who want their freedom.
Yet none of this should replace our outrage at the acts of kidnapping that go on “in the meantime.” And that is why we start and finish this note with a demand that whoever has those Israeli teens must return them immediately and safely to their families. And as a rabbi, I add to that demand a prayer for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun magazine and Chair, the (Interfaith and Secular-Humanist-Welcoming) Network of Spiritual , rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, Ca. and author of eleven books, most recently Embracing Israel/Palestine.
P.S. None of our outrage should be taken as legitimation of blaming the entire Palestinian people for this kidnapping or for assaulting the people of Gaza or a renewed military assault by the IDF beyond a narrowly pin-pointed search for the kidnapped teens. Punishing an entire population for the sins of a few was developed by Roman imperialists two thousand years ago and remains a disgusting and God-denying act of brutality that should never be tolerated by any humane society.

16 thoughts on “Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens

  1. They had absolutely no moral or any other kind of right to be in the West Bank – trespassers, amongst very many more of the Zionist land thieves, and murderers.

  2. One thing you didn’t mention….each of the perpetrators likely has lost a father/grandfather/uncle/brother to IDF “retaliatin” for throwing stones and/or has a mother/grandmother/aunt/sister whose rib cage was crushed by the butt of a settler rifle for accompanying Americans during the harvest of their 400 year old olive trees.

  3. I am willing to sign a petition to free the kidnapped Israeli teens. But, I wonder why Tikkun is not putting out a petition to free the thousands of Palestinians (including women and children) who are being held in Israeli jails, many (or most?) without charge.
    Doesn’t the Tikkun Community consider a Palestinian life as valuable as that of an Israeli Jew?? Isn’t this one of the basic tenets of Judaism??

    • Hundreds of CONVICTED prisoners have been released, some of whom have been behind horrific acts. One example is Samir Kuntar. He beat an 4 years old to death with a rock. Open you damn eyes! BTW, the Israeli teens never had a chance

  4. It goes without saying that the three abducted boys must be freed. Also the proof must be produced that these boys were abducted by Hamas, as Mr. Netanyahu alleges, given that his credibility has been documentably proven to be beyond questionable. It is noteworthy that The Washington Post reporter, William Booth, has quoted a “senior Israeli military intelligence officer” who said that “…security forces under the under the Palestinian Authority have been working closely with their Israeli counterparts- even now – to foil attacks against Israelis.”
    It also goes without saying that the concept of “collective punishment” which is being advocated and practiced using this abduction as a pretext is odious and criminal, particularly when Palestinians are shot and killed, as at least five have been during the search for the abductors, and when Palestinian children are being charged with crimes under military law which allows for 12 year olds and older to be prosecuted in a military court for the “crime” of throwing a stone, not to mention when chidden as young as 5 are arrested in the middle of the night, without a warrant or probable cause.

  5. I so understand all reactions of the painful Hearts.
    I prefer to stay in my Heart [that contains your heart as well] than to fall to imagination.
    All the mind stuff that justifies, assumes, projects, think I am right and he is wrong, blames, protects – this has no interest to me.
    I only feel and I feel a lot of pain everywhere.Of the perpetrator and of the victim.
    Soon there will be soooooooooo much destruction that the only way to go will be to each other’s Heart.
    Its the hearts of sleepy people that needs to be awaken to their beauty.
    It is a very private, intimate work of each one of us.
    With Love and care

  6. Is there any evidence that they were kidnapped? Perhaps they are just administratively detained for suspiscion of war crimes, which there is strong evidence of (inhabiting land stolen in war is a war crime.)
    What ever happened to the Three Strong Oaths anyway?

      • No, Stan, just a questioning of the narrative. Is there a Ransom note?
        The “Administrative Detention” line was a reference to the regular kidnapping that Palestinian children are regularly subjected to which is not mentioned by the media. In April, 2014, which is the latest numbers are available, there were 27 Palestinian children between 12 and 15 that were being held hostage by the Occupier, (The missing Settler teens would not be considered children if they were Palestinian.) Thus, there are 9x as many Palestinian children in the latest count, that we know were kidnapped by the Occupier, currently still being held hostage. There has not been a time in decades when the Occupier was not holding children hostage.
        The kidnapping of these settler teens is every bit as reprehensible as every 3 Palestinian children that are kidnapped and held hostage. But that still means that there is 9x as much scorn that should be laid at the feet of the Occupier as there would be at the feet of the individuals who are accused (apparently without any evidence) of kidnapping the settler teens that are currently missing.
        Of course that does not include the 4 murders and 400+ kidnappings that the Occupier has done since the 3 Settler teens went missing.
        And, of course, there are those pesky Geneva Conventions, which make very clear that the 3 Settler teens, by virtue of their loving parents deciding to raise them in illegal settlements, are all War Criminals. For all we know, they are en route to the Hague to stand trial for their War Crimes. (Unlikeley, but there is exactly as much evidence for this as there is that they were kidnapped.)
        Again, IF they were kidnapped, this would have been exactly as reprehensible as each 3 people the Occupier has kidnapped. There should be exactly as much outrage over their kidnapping (if it was a kidnapping) as there is for every 3 kidnappings that have been committed against the Palestinians.
        Unfortunately, as the Occupier has shown its usual sense of proportionality by murdering more people than alleged to have been kidnapped, and kidnapping more than 130 times as many people as were alleged to have been kidnapped, they have ensured that the outrage at the possibility that 3 Settler Teens were kidnapped is completely overwhelmed by the outrage at their response to the alleged kidnappings by all but those who are so extremely bigoted that they feel that the suffering of the Palestinians under collective punishment (another War Crime) is meaningless.
        So, Stan, do you wish to continue to libel me by completely misrepresenting my position?

  7. While I condemn all violence, especially against children, I object to the cavalier tone of Rabbi Lerner’s “so what”? I’m not sure you meant it that way. So what?
    So the Israeli Occupation Forces are using this kidnapping as an excuse to kidnap Palestinian children – many more than three of them – and at apparently much younger ages.
    So the Western media, once again, are in a tizzy about three Israelis, but once again, as usual, silent about the continued kidnapping and killing of Palestinian children on a regular basis.
    So I can’t imagine that the perpetrators didn’t foresee this, and indeed, they were probably trying to provoke exactly such a situation (maybe with the hope that SOMEBODY would finally break down and do something)?
    So I can’t bring myself to pass along this essay as it is. Its dismissal of context, even as it lists a few the horrors that the Occupation relentlesslly visits upon the occupied (and says “so what?”), demonstrates an uncharacteristic lack of compassion towards those who have suffered the most because of this incident. At the very least, you must demand the release of the Palestinian children (many younger than the Israeli teens), who were kidnapped by a government that our country supports and funds, in retaliation. Shalom.

  8. Thank you for opening up this issue to be considered within the context of a broader “humanity” instead of “us” and “them.” Despite our efforts to separate ourselves from each other, we are all the same, as YoHana puts it, “heart.” Jewish moms mourn the same as Palestian moms over the loss of a child.
    This skillfully argued piece offers a radical framework for viewing pain and violence from a broader perspective, one in which we can see opinions more objectively. There is history on both sides; there are myths on both sides. Bringing young people together early with these different views can bring about change for all. But first we must be open to a post-bunker mentality. Thank you for this effort from the “intellectual heart.”

  9. I vote no against all kidnapping.
    I vote yes to seeing the humanity of all and treating each one as a treasured image of the One beyond our grasping

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