What Did You Expect?

In Israel over the weekend, a so-called “groundbreaking” story emerged.

Eden Aberjil, a female Israeli soldier (who has finished her required time in the army) posted pictures to Facebook that were widely considered disrespectful and offensive.

The pictures displayed Aberjil posing in front of several Palestinian men. The men were prisoners, therefore blindfolded and handcuffed. Naturally outraged, Palestinian leaders quickly condemned the IDF and Aberjil, comparing the photos to those taken at the Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad (in 2004). IDF spokesman Barak Raz also denounced the photos, saying “we are talking about a serious violation of our morals and our ethical code.” Journalists almost universally expressed similar concerns.

But– momentarily– let me speak to you as a teenager.

When I have an experience with my friends– going to the beach, taking a trip to Israel, visiting a friend in another city– we take pictures. When we do something new, we take pictures. When we do something invigorating, we take pictures. And then we post them to Facebook so that everyone can comment and “like” our pictures.

Obviously, Aberjil’s experience wasn’t a walk on the beach or a weekend road trip to San Diego. It was much more controversial and eccentric. In fact, I would argue that it was wrong and immoral. I don’t think that she had nefarious intentions, but I do think that it showed poor judgement on her part. But that’s where I’d like to point something out.

Israeli soldiers are eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. They are taken straight out of high school and placed into one of the most rigorous training programs in the military world. Once they are wearing that deep green uniform, they are immediately held to an exceptionally high ethical code. As they should be.

But as hard as it may be to imagine, they are teenagers. They are youth. We hope and pray that the people defending the state of Israel will not break the rules and will be sensible, mature adults. But the world is so shocked when a young Israeli soldier makes a poor, naive decision. Why isn’t the world prepared for that? They are teenagers. There’s a reason that you can’t drink until you’re twenty-one in the United States. It’s because that’s when the brain starts to fully develop.

Why are we so shocked when teenagers behave like teenagers? We should be constantly impressed by the soldiers who don’t do childish things, and be cautious of people like Eden Aberjil. I’m not saying to hold soldiers to a lower standard. I’m saying that when someone acts their age, the action they performed shouldn’t be a rude awakening.

I’m sorry if this wasn’t the post you wanted to read, but I believe it’s the truth.


5 thoughts on “What Did You Expect?

  1. Very interesting point. But I think that excusing her actions because she is a “teenager” is not a good thing either. It should be noted that when a teenager turns 18, they are held responsible for their actions and can go to jail. They can vote. They are eligible for jury duty. And ultimately, have the right to marry.

    Look, as a teenager myself, I agree with many points that you have made. Overall though, I believe that excusing someone’s actions because they are a teenager is not okay to do either.

  2. D- That’s a good point about the 18 thing. But I didn’t say that her actions should be excused. I just said that the world shouldn’t be shocked when a teenager acts like a teenager. Journalists and politicians shouldn’t formulate a holier-than-thou attitude toward someone who is supposed to make mistakes…that’s what we teenagers/ young people do.

    • To my mind, the bigger point to be made here is that this is NOT like Abu Gharib at all — rather, it is the exception that proves the rule. That is, the Israelis have always had to hold themselves to a higher standard. By virtue of their precarious security situation, their teenagers HAVE had to grow up awfully fast — and they are indeed held to the highest moral standards.

      And this is as it should be. Not because it’s fair, but because these higher (highest, I think) moral standards are the only way to keep Israel both safe and moral. For its survival, it is essential that Israel have great military strength; and for its moral survival, it is essential that Israel permit no ethical blunders.

      And that is why I disagree with you, Ami. While I understand your point — it’s thoughtful and reasonable — I believe that a complex understanding of the moral quandaries of Israeli security challenges it. There is just no room, whatsoever, for that kind of behavior. The fate of international Jewish safety and autonomy depends on an IDF no-tolerance policy of teenage on-the-job bad behavior.

  3. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers opened fire at Colorado’s Columbine High School. They killed 12 students and a teachers and wounded 21 others, then killed themselves. Would you say “What did you expect? They were teenagers?”

    I expect a lot of teenagers, particularly when they are in IDF uniforms.

  4. @D, Neshama, and LAZionist: The post isn’t talking about “exusing” the actions or lowering our expectations of IDF soldiers because they are young. Look:

    “I’m saying that when someone acts their age, the action they performed shouldn’t be a rude awakening. I’m sorry if this wasn’t the post you wanted to read, but , I believe it’s the truth.”

    These last two sentences aren’t just qualifying the content of the rest of the post. They are a deep, important conclusion. Ami is merely reminding us of the inherent flaws in a system where we send 18 year old kids to fight for our countries. It is dangerous that people don’t pause to think about that and just assume that that’s the way it is. Clearly there is a problem there. I hope everyone can see it. And with such a cruel, idiotic system in place, how can you be surprised when it blows up in your face?

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