Give me the child at seven

There is an old Jesuit maxim that states “give me a child until he is seven and I’ll show you the man”. While modern research is conflicted about exactly what age our core ideas are formed, there is no denying that the environment a child grows up in will shape their adult life.

This week, the stark differences between the way in which Palestinian children in Gaza are treated and the environment Israel provides for her young became shockingly clearer.

For a start, there was the sad case of eight-month old Leila al-Ghandour, whose name was removed from the list of ‘martyrs’ because a pre-existing heart condition was the most likely cause of death (aggravated by the smoke from burning tires at the protests). One needs to ask why any parent would bring a child with a known condition to riots where tires are being burned and there is a real risk. It is possible that the family were forced by their Hamas rulers and it is possible that they also wanted to use their child as fodder in the political and public-relations war. Either way, there was a possibly avoidable death.

As well as encouraging children to attend the violent riots and using them to provoke the IDF, Hamas has also implemented a school curriculum that glorifies terrorists and martyrdom, and teaches that Israel has no right to exist. This week, we saw kindergarten children play out a terror attack during their graduation to primary school, more evidence that UNRWA schools incite violence, and more Palestinian TV promoting the idea of ‘return’. This is no way to raise future leaders committed to peace.

On the other side of the fence, as dozens of missiles rain down from Gaza, Israeli children are taught to seek shelter in their reinforced playgrounds and other bomb shelters. They use art to express their feelings and are taught not to hate the other.

As former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, said “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

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