Readers react to Ayelet Waldman's column criticizing the indoctrination of Gaza's youngest settlers.

Published September 6, 2005 8:32PM (EDT)

Read "Suffer the Children," by Ayelet Waldman.

I appreciate the author's unique perspective on the cynical indoctrination of children in the Gaza settlements by their parents. As I live in Ramallah, a city populated mostly by people whose families were displaced during what Israel considers its War of Independence and never allowed back to their homes, I can't share the sentimental impressions of a once-noble army defending a young Israel that Waldman seems to hold.

However, I do share her disgust with the settlers who indoctrinate their children for political aims. And I would reassure the author that in contrast to her shaping her children into young liberals, the settlers are guilty of a far more dangerous thing -- putting their children directly into harm's way by bringing them up in colonies built on stolen Palestinian land. They further contribute to the perpetuation of the conflict by indoctrinating their children with ideology that they and they alone have the God-given right to land.

If her writing is any indication, Waldman, while not raising her children in a politically neutral environment, will teach her children to think critically. And this, I fear, is something that children in the settlements do not learn -- as critical thought is generally incompatible with extreme ideology.

-- Maureen Clare Murphy

Ayelet Waldman is certainly right about every set of parents indoctrinating their own children in something or other. It's called "culture." Some children grow up to learn how to think and gather data and make up their own informed minds about the indoctrination they received, and about the subject the indoctrination was about. And of course some indoctrinators are more thorough and thought-preventive than others are.

But some children never do grow up to do any actual original thinking about original data gathered from original sources. They live lives of endless adolescence, stuck in puerile rebellion against whatever their parents believe, for the reason that it is their parents who believe it.

In this case, the original information-seeking question might well be: Is scapegoating Israel/Zionism for global terrorism the fault of Israel/Zionism, or is such scapegoating the fault of the self-interested special- agenda-motivated scapegoaters? A genuinely matured post-adolescent post-rebellion grown-up adult might well ask herself that question.

-- Joshua Banner

Does Ayelet Waldman ever think about what she's saying before she says it? I'm referring to her statement in her most recent piece "Suffer the Children" where she said: "I can't help fearing that the Zionist enterprise will one day be seen to have done the Jewish people more harm than good. Our tenacious hold on this strip of homeland has become the scapegoat for the world's terrorism and this wouldn't be the case if we remained a people of the diaspora. My father is sure that Israel keeps the Holocaust from happening again. I worry that it might hasten its recurrence."

Does she really mean to suggest that if we Jews just simply gave up Israel, the world's anti-Semites would just simply go away? Does she really believe that if Jews had remained a people of the diaspora that we would have been better off? Why doesn't she tell that to the more than 1 million Russian Jews who managed to find refuge in Israel from the anti-Semitism of the Soviet Union of the 1970s, '80s, '90s and today? Or why doesn't she explain that to the Ethiopian Jews who were able to escape the anti-Semitism of Ethiopia in the 1980s and '90s? Had Jews been in control of their destiny in British mandatory Palestine during the Second World War, how many millions in the "safe" diaspora would have been able to escape Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Treblinka and other Nazi death camps? If we are so safe in the diaspora, can Ms. Waldman explain why acts of anti-Semitic violence and vandalism in Western Europe are at their highest level since the end of World War II?

The sad thing is, that particular comment got in the way of what otherwise would have been an excellent article.

-- Richard Trank

I admit to not being bowled over by Ayelet Waldman's first few Salon columns; they seemed the work of a talented writer who favored shock value over substance.

However, her latest column, "Suffer The Children," touched me enough to inspire my first Salon letter. Ms. Waldman's thoughtful treatment of her Israeli heritage spoke to my own faded memories of a Jewish childhood. More important, the introspection she showed in this column was inspiring to a writer like myself. It takes talent to question one's self while maintaining balance and perspective, and Ms. Waldman accomplished that beautifully. Similarly, it is a rare writer these days who can intelligently straddle the fence and retain a mature objectivity where the issue of Middle East peace is concerned.

I look forward to Ms. Waldman's next column.

-- Benjamin Marlin

Every single Salon article by Ayelet Waldman seems to be about the necessity to wrap your kids in bubble wrap and make them wear bicycle helmets well into their 20s. Are we supposed to conclude those dastardly settlers are no different from abusers and child molesters? OK, but where do we think the civil rights movement in America would be without Brown v. Board of Ed or children getting fire-hosed like everyone else? Perhaps the Ayelet Waldmans of the world need to keep their soccer-mom keening to themselves.

-- Stephen Rifkin

Ironically or coincidentally, I'm not sure, the kibbutznik sensibility from which Ayelet Waldman comes is the right approach, I think, when it comes to raising children in the most liberal way possible -- and that's liberal in the righteous sense, not its bowdlerized political form.

As children we're lucky to have two people on whom we can depend for both physical and emotional sustenance. Some of us don't even get that, whether because of disease, disappearance or death. We all know that role models are important in a child's life. The more loving and responsible adults in a young life, the better.

If we can't help but indoctrinate as we parent, then the more dogmas from which to choose, the better. It really does take a village to assure that the forces of reaction do not overtake the struggle for civilization.

So, ironically, one of the models for a different kind of future -- and maybe a much better one -- was in a country born of reaction.

-- Amy Tillem

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------