by: Cheryl Hauer, Vice President
Since the early 19th century, summer camp has been a part of life for virtually every Jewish child worldwide. It began as an effort to provide a place for children living in poverty to spend some restful time enjoying the great outdoors, away from crowded apartments and teeming, sweltering cities. Today, summer camp has become a Jewish tradition and provides an opportunity for literally all Jewish children to experience friendship, learning, spiritual growth and a healthy dose of just plain fun. It has shaped the lives of literally millions of Jews who today are doctors and lawyers, rabbis and teachers, moms and dads forming the soul of the Jewish community. Many would tell you they would not be who they are today were it not for camp.
In London, Calgary, Cape Town or Shanghai, every Jewish community is dedicated to the education and spiritual and social development of its children. Whether tucked away in the rolling hills of the eastern United States or perched above the Baltic Sea in Sweden, summer camp has become an integral part of that educational experience.
There are technology camps, religious camps, Zionist camps and plain let’s-learn-to-be-good-Jews camps. Regardless of its location or specific focus, every camp is committed to teaching children to respect themselves and others as those created in the image of God, to work toward making the world a better place and to live by the Jewish values of morality, justice, righteousness and peace.
Of course, Israel is no exception. Summer camps dot the countryside and provide love and encouragement for the handicapped, those who have lost loved ones to terror, new immigrant children who need help finding their way in their new country or those who desperately need a respite from the threat of rockets and arson. Every child is valued and given the opportunity to create a sound foundation on which to build a successful life.
The summer camp idea has caught on in other areas of Israel as well, with camps being held in the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza every summer for nearly a decade. Sponsored by Hamas (the terror group ruling the Gaza Strip), Fatah (leading secular Palestinian political party) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the second largest terror group in the Gaza Strip), they are also committed to educating their children. However, the fundamental values that inform those educational experiences are diametrically opposed to those of Israel’s Jews.
It is estimated that well over 50,000 Palestinian children, many as young as six years old, have participated in these camps. The goal, says Hamas official Ismail Radwan, is to “raise a generation of Palestinians who love the resistance and the liberation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Children are encouraged to see themselves, no matter how young they are, as soldiers against Israel. They are dressed in military uniforms and receive military training in the use of firearms, explosives and various techniques for murder and martyrdom. Live fire drills are common, and “campers” are rewarded for their bravery and for their passionate desire to kill Israelis. Children receive radical religious training as well and are taught that Jews are pigs, less than human and evil monsters who kill Palestinian children and drink their blood. They are taught that the Israeli military machine has robbed them of their heritage and their homes and that nothing in life or death is as important as ending the “occupation.” There is no greater honor than to give one’s life for liberation.
As part of the children’s indoctrination, terrorists who have killed Israelis and died as a result are honored and held up as role models. This year, a Hamas-sponsored camp for female high school students was named after Dalal Mughrabi, who committed one of the most lethal attacks in Israel’s history, hijacking a bus and murdering 37 civilians, 12 of them children. Called the Sisters of Dalal Summer Camp, these young women were taught that violence, murder and terror as a means to reach political goals is not only legitimate but honorable. As sisters of Dalal, they are duty bound to use any means to fight Zionism.
Unfortunately, the indoctrination of children doesn’t end with summer camps. The Palestinian education system is well known for its anti-Semitic hatred, and the indoctrination continues throughout the school year. The school books used in Palestinian Authority (PA) classrooms have long been the subject of concern by governments and watchdog organizations around the world, and a recent long-awaited upgrade actually produced little if any positive change. Every subject from math to home economics is infused with examples of Israel as the occupier, the usurper and the murderous enemy. Children learn to count using pictures of Palestinian martyrs, and kindergarten students dress in military fatigues and brandish toy machine guns to simulate the capture of an Israeli soldier as part of a school play.
In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel for the deaths of young Palestinians killed during the commissioning of an act of terrorism and for the imprisonment of teenage Palestinians convicted of terrorism. No mention was made of the fact that the indoctrination of these children and their use as combatants is tantamount to child abuse. Yet governments and organizations around the world continue to hand millions of dollars to Palestinian leadership.
In 2018, the Belgium government suspended relations with the PA education ministry when they realized their dollars had been used to build a school that was then named after Dalal Mugrabhi. They will no longer fund the building of Palestinian schools, hoping, they said, that fewer Palestinian children will be educated to hate. The nations of the world must follow suit and cease support for a system that abuses children and incites them to murder and martyrdom. The ball is in their court, and their response is the only hope of a future for Palestinian children.
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