Turning youth into political pawns

The Jewish Bulletin has always been supportive of teen trips to Israel. We believe that these trips help build a greater allegiance to Israel, and encourage our youth to participate in the Jewish world as they become adults.

But this year we agree with the decision of our local agencies and with the national Reform movement to cancel the trips, which amid current violence would put our children at risk. We are astounded at the criticism the Reform movement in particular is receiving.

The arguments from the critics are just what you'd expect: Israel needs our support more than ever. Israel is safer than most American cities. Stopping youth trips now is a victory for the Palestinians.

The truth is that the critics are politicizing the situation. And the fate of our children is not their No. 1 concern.

Our local agencies and the national Reform movement agonized over their decisions to cancel this year's trips. The leaders of these organizations are committed to youth trips to Israel. In the past, they have fought budgetary concerns that might have reduced the number of slots available or even canceled the programs. This year's decision was gut-wrenching for them.

But they did the right thing. How would the public have reacted if a child on these trips was injured or killed because he or she was in the wrong place at the wrong time? The youth spend the summer touring, not sitting in a Jerusalem conference center. An Israel trip should allow our kids to fully experience Israel — not shortchange them.

We have been reading headlines almost daily about terrorism in Israel, about suicide bombers, about random shootings. In good conscience, we as parents cannot send our offspring into this situation.

Let's hope that next year in Jerusalem it's safer, and that this year's disappointed children can join next year's trip.