Before the summer many parents lose sleep from anxiety about their teenager’s lack of structured activity in the summer. This is especially true in Israel where summer camps aren’t always an option. A television program in Israel called “Drugs and Alcohol” showed journalists who followed police walking the beat in Tel Aviv at night who kept finding youth stoned from drugs or alcohol and having drugs in their possession. One description was: “When police entered the park they were greeted with catcalls from neighborhood teens. 3 young men about to join a top army unit after the summer were smoking joints. They had a pencil case full of cannabis and smoking paraphernalia. In every encounter with youth we always found marijuana. One 16 year old girl had it and another had hashish in her bag.”
This is nothing new to Israeli police. In fact before the summer 50 commanders of city patrols had a meeting to try to stop these ‘quality of life crimes’. Key potential trouble spots were “clubs and parks filled with bored youth drinking”. And preparation took place for “violence in clubs, on the boardwalk and area of Tel Aviv Port”. But Tel Aviv doesn’t have a monopoly on drugs and violence, every major Israeli city also has its flash points for these unwanted activities.
For smaller children, summer vacation means fun and swimming but for the teens and young adults it’s literally a mine field. In Israel ‘googling’ youth and summer vacation you will find lawyers websites offering legal advice to parents on how to keep their teens out of jail during summer break with special advice about not carrying knives, drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Police deal with enforcement and they can’t be blamed for their pathological approach to crime looking for the trouble instead of preventing it. It’s really the job of parents and society to take the responsibility of raising children with values to the point that they won’t desire things illegal and immoral. Without judging anyone, after all most parents really care about their children, the summer is still a test for most parents of teens and the teens themselves face challenges and peer pressure they may not want to or be equipped face. The lack of structure brings boredom and trouble on its heels.
Many religious young men have taken up the gauntlet and frequent malls where teens congregate during the day. They offer them pizza and a coke or a spinner if they participate in a short Torah class at the local synagogue. It was refreshing to see youth that could have been hanging out in the park and looking for trouble coming to a Torah lecture at the synagogue. Some teens even got to go on trips after attending a string of classes. The teens actually made new friends with higher caliber peers than they would find in the park peddling drugs.
Some synagogues had one married man as a study partner for each 2 young men and there was breakfast after prayers in the morning and some synagogues even had a game room. These efforts are grass roots out of love for fellow Jews. Even one Jewish teen getting hurt in the park from getting into a scuffle when drunk or stoned is too much.
Again police are just there to enforce the law. It’s up to us, each one of us as parents or good neighbors to look out for our youth and help them navigate the troubled waters of the summer and its potential dangers. Thanks to young men like the ones we talked about many of our teens chose life this summer. Let's give them a great big hand!