A Clear and Present Danger

Life in the Middle East is often fraught with danger for citizens who hope only to live in peace. It goes without saying that the current peace process is a risk-taking venture that reflects, at least on Israel’s part, the desperation felt by a nation trying to convince their neighbors to stop shooting at them. For nearly half a century, the tiny state has faced “a clear and present danger” to their national security.

But, as is often true, danger can come in forms that are perhaps more subtle but nonetheless as potentially dangerous as people with hoods and knives. This peril involves an assault on the minds of the young people who will be essential to the future of the nation and the stability of the region in the days ahead. The plague to which I refer is not confined to Israel or other areas remote to life and times in the Western world. No, it is the pox that has invaded America with a force that bewilders people who wish better things for future generations.

A poll taken by Dr. Raphael Schneller, a lecturer and head of Bar-Ilan University’s School of Education Communications Department, uncovered some disquieting facts. The results indicated that television is having detrimental effects on Israel’s youth beyond what many had suspected. “The growing addiction to television,” Schneller reported, “has serious implications on the youth’s health, education, social development and culture.

“They are cut off from reality and don’t know the real world. Everything is imaginary and unusual. Normal terms of reference don’t exist for them. They don’t meet real-life characters and cannot hold a normal conversation, as they have become used to only hearing—not listening or talking, but hearing.

“The longest conversation with their friends might be ‘pass the peanuts.’”

Schneller and other researchers claim the attention span of youths is reduced to the 10- to 15-minute span between commercials.

“I’m not against television,” the researcher said, “on the contrary. But instead of widening horizons it has started to limit them.”

In Israel, as in few other countries in the world, television is perhaps a way of escaping the grim realities of life in a near war zone. This is, in a, sense, perfectly understandable. But one must ask the question, What are these young people escaping to?

It is revealing and predictable that, fed the same moral and intellectual diet, kids in Israel respond as do kids in America.

I have sampled Israeli television over the years and can testify that a generous helping of what is aired is made in America. Thus, the shows young Israelis are viewing are no more uplifting or enlightening than the fare ingested by our children for a disproportionate amount of time each day. It is revealing and predictable that, fed the same moral and intellectual diet, kids in Israel respond as do kids in America.

There is no question that television is one of the great technological marvels of history. It is regrettable that, in large measure, it has been devoted to demeaning, rather than ennobling, proper standards of decency and conduct. Perhaps we should suggest that American distributors of TV shows to Israel—and, for that matter, the rest of the world—place labels on their programs stating, “Warning: Excessive viewing of the contents may prove hazardous to your mental health and well-being and jeopardize the future of your nation.”

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