It pained me to watch the video (click here) of the two of you crying after Israeli soldiers caught you coming into Israel, armed with knives, on a mission to kill Jews. You’re only eight years old – and they sent you from Gaza to kill Jews – eight-years-old and they’re turning you into terrorists. As I watched the two of you sobbing I wondered – why were you crying? Were you crying because you feared what the Israeli soldiers might do to you? Were you crying because some monsters believed that eight-year-old children should be sent out to kill? Or were you crying because the Israeli soldiers who treated you with kindness - who gave you water and hugged you - were sending you back to a place in which children are robbed of their childhood by those who have made your home the closest version of hell on earth?
You’re only children and already they are trying to turn you into murderers. You have the right to a childhood filled with joy, happiness, games and education. You have the right to live in a place in which your government takes the money it receives from many nations in this world and uses it to build schools, hospitals and places for you to enjoy everything else children your age are entitled to. You have the right to go to a school where you’ll learn math, science, language – where you’ll learn about the world and how good it can be. Instead you go to a school where they inspire you to hate, they teach you to kill and they turn 8-year-olds into terrorists. You and your friends have the right to something so much better than this. You have the right to believe that your life can be filled with a happiness which does not require your martyrdom.
It’s not just those who rule Gaza who do this to you. There are many others. There are the international organizations which were created to protect children like you. They have been silent in the face of the wrongs done to you and generations of children. I’m sure that you have heard about the United Nations. Well, the United Nations has a Human Rights Council and for years it has been permitting the leaders of Gaza to rob you of every basic right a child should have. These “diplomats” blame Israel for all the problems you, your family and friends live with each and every day. They have allowed the leaders of Gaza to become the monsters they are. They have permitted your leaders to turn little children like you into terrorists. They have allowed your leaders to believe that the world will support them as they steal your childhood away from you.
A few days ago you met some Israeli soldiers. They showed you kindness. They treated you with warmth, they hugged you – because they hurt for you too. You had come to kill them and they embraced you with friendship and understanding. You don’t know me – but I hope you believe me when I say that those soldiers are like millions of other Israelis who want you to have the same future they wish for their own children.
Boys, there are many people in this world who look at what’s happening in your life and blame it all on Israel. But you need to know that Israel long ago removed all its people – all its soldiers from the Gaza Strip. They turned it over to your leaders hoping that they would create a place – eventually a nation of your own – where children could learn and play, where plants would grow, factories be built, and children would know the wonders of technology which would make your life and the life of so many others so much better. Your leaders squandered that opportunity. Instead they built tunnels for terrorism. They used the money that should have gone to build hospitals, to build thousands of rockets to fire into Israel and to kill Jews. They took the money that could have educated you, and a generation of children, and turned the Gaza into a place which sends children out to murder.
There are those in this world who believe that if they criticize Israel enough your life will change for the better. You, your friends and so many others in Gaza deserve more from them. You have the right to be assured that they will hold your leaders responsible for the crimes they commit against you. You have the right to grow up believing that peace with Israel is possible. But, I fear that will never happen so long as people choose to permit your leaders to believe that their wrongs will never be honestly and strongly confronted.
There was a leader of Israel by the name of Gold Meir. When I saw you the other day I was reminded of her words. She said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” I hope and pray that one day that day will come. Until then I will always remember your tears.
Shalom – Salaam,
Rabbi Charles Klein