Seven teenage girls have been arrested for settling an illegal outpost, and held in jail for over two weeks. Yitzhak Kadman, the director of the National Council for the Child, has called for their release. The girls, most of whom are only 14 years old, broke the law but did not commit a serious crime. The girls refuse to identify themselves or sign any statements because they don’t recognize the authority of the court. Judges have upheld the prosecutor’s decision to keep the girls in jail until they cooperate with the authorities.
The fact that they are still being held is an outrage and an embarrassment for the country. The girls should be released.
On the other side we have the parents, who could identify the girls and file a petition for their release. They have refused. In a Makor Rishon interview one mother said it would be like stabbing her daughter in the back. The parents have gotten together and agreed that the girls would be “hurt” and would get the feeling that the parents “don’t agree with their decisions.”
Parents should not let young teenage daughters fight the community’s ideological battles with jail time. Let the parents sit in jail instead (although one mother says that she’s proud of her daughter for her actions, as she could never sit in jail herself). They are not encouraging their children’s autonomy by subjecting them to prison. The parents’ job is to look at the big picture and get them out of jail, before there is any more psychological and (hopefully not any) physical damage. It’s possible to explain, even to teenagers, that you support their cause but that you cannot let them pay such a price, and that until they are 18 they cannot make such life-altering decisions without their parents’ consent.
In the religious community we discourage adult women from going into the army. How can we let 14-year-old girls sit in jail?
Either the parents are afraid of their teenagers’ reaction, or they believe so deeply in their cause that they are willing to sacrifice their children’s well-being to it.
My husband says I’m being too harsh on the parents, some of whom are still traumatized by the eviction from Gush Katif (the Jewish communities in Gaza). The article quotes a mother who said that the disengagement turned her daughter from a girl into a young woman who “needs to take responsibility because the adults failed.” My husband says this demonstrates a sense of failure on the part of the parents, who are pinning their hopes on the next generation.
My husband is right; I’m being too harsh on the parents. Because they are getting implicit or explicit support from many others in the community, including rabbis and political leaders, who should be telling the parents to do what they have to do to get those girls out of jail.