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The Challenge of Restraint

01/08/19 14:19:59


An allegation of gang rape by a group of young Israelis ranging in age from 15 to 18 at a Cyprus resort gripped Israel over the past week. The 19-year-old British woman who said they had raped her has now been arrested for making a false accusation. The Israelis have returned home to a celebratory welcome by their families and supporters.

Like many Israelis I am deeply troubled by this sordid affair - a cartoon in an Israeli newspaper apparently cynically compared the jubilant return of the teenagers to the homecoming of the Entebbe captives. While this may be exaggerated, it does draw attention to the uncomfortable response to the circumstances of this case. These boys are no heroes but rather hapless teenagers with too much freedom and too little responsibility. Nobody, including the alleged victim and the boys involved, denied that they were staying at a resort that advertised itself as an ‘adults only‘ apartment hotel with 24 hour parties around the pool. Nobody denied that there was group sex and lots of alcohol and there’s the omniscient video evidence.

It’s one thing to dismiss this as typical adolescent behaviour and the pressures especially on young Israelis. Many of these teens were on holiday before being inducted into combat units. It’s another matter completely to condone their behaviour and worse to welcome the boys home as heroes.

It’s an indictment of the lack of moral training of young people in Israeli secular culture but it’s also relevant to the kind of education we are giving our teenagers in our Jewish schools in Australia. I’ve been out of the educational system for a long time but I still wonder if we are adequately preparing our students for the challenges of an open and permissive society. We live in a society awash with pornography and a high level of abuse, not to mention the problems of the ready availability of alcohol and drugs. Are we providing enough training of what is virtuous, ethical and moral?

More specifically what are we teaching our young men about their attitude towards women - even if the woman was complicit, the reports about their treatment of her is at best questionable. In Israel it’s a complex issue because of the necessity to be a tough and brave soldier. The balance between manliness and metschlikness is a fine and delicate one. And then what are we teaching our young women about restraint and responsibility in sexuality and their right to say no to the pressure of young men?

Finally, I’m troubled by the images of the boys putting on large white kippot (for the media?) and the authenticity of their singing about God’s goodness and one even professing he will do teshuva (repent). I really do hope that they and their parents will use this incident to reflect on their behaviour, responsibility and morality. We all make mistakes and nobody is free of sin and wrong. But we are also free not to give license to our worst impulses, to strive to be better, to create and enhance a society of care and carefulness, respect and righteousness.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Ralph

Thu, 21 January 2021 8 Shevat 5781