Soldiers are not a Role Model for Kids

Graphic of child wearing a helmet and a sign that reads #ChildrenNotSoldiers
Source: Children Not Soldiers

By Ahmad Abu Munshar

In the last days of February, while the weather shifted unpredictably, I witnessed a tragedy. On the way back to the office from the checkpoints, we saw a settler family, two children with their parents, in Hebron’s old city. The boy wore a soldier outfit as he gripped a plastic weapon in his hand, and the girl was wearing a wedding dress. They were wearing these costumes for the Purim holiday as they stood waiting for the school bus.

We always expect the unexpected while observing students on their way to school, but I didn't expect this scene. It made me look at the future differently, the future of the children and the region as a whole. What will the settler children become in the future? If their role models are soldiers, those children might be humiliating me at checkpoints in a few years, just like the older generation who are oppressed and humiliated by younger soldiers today. In Palestinian culture, our elders are considered wise and are granted respect from people, so when younger soldiers degrade our elders, this destroys our traditions and social fabric.

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I couldn't sleep that night, and I started to ask myself, can we make peace and achieve the dream of living a life where we have our fundamental rights? We are currently demanding our rights to education, movement, and access to medical care, while some people reject these rights and are carrying out ethnic cleansing of our people. I considered the boy I saw earlier that day and wondered what would happen if Palestinian children wore soldier outfits?  Israeli media would use this as an opportunity to call us terrorists and publicize it to the whole world. Likely, military soldiers would accuse the Palestinian parents of inciting violence meanwhile settlers walk with their machine guns for security, without worrying about the reaction of other people or the international community.  

If they want to change the future, they should start now by changing the present. Teach children how to love others and stop the cycle of ideology that they inherited from their parents and the generations before. Give them the chance to form their own beliefs. This also applies to Palestinians; violence brings more violence, both between Israeli and Palestinians but also within their own communities. We should be aware of this cycle of violence that passes from generation to generation in order to bring peace to the region.