Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog announced Monday that his ministry would create special institutions for young Israelis living in Judea and Samaria who are not enrolled in any formal program or institutional framework. The initiative is aimed at the “hilltop youth”--teenagers who spend their days building new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and fighting border police and other forces who attempt to evict them.
Herzog defined the youths as “a danger to security.” Not only do they endanger security, he said, they are “a danger to education and to society that we must deal with.”
"Hilltop youths” should be treated like criminal youth, Herzog said. Such treatment would include providing the youth with therapeutic settings and rehabilitation as well as increasing law enforcement on their activities.
According to Haaretz, the Welfare Ministry is already taking bids from construction companies interested in building “Safe Houses” for hilltop youth. The houses will target teenagers under the age of 18 who have dropped out of school or broken contact with their parents. Some teens will enter the homes by choice, while others will be sentenced to the homes after breaking the law, Herzog said.
Youths in the safe houses will meet with social workers and other professionals and take part in enrichment activities, ministry officials explained. Similar programs exist for “youths at risk” from the secular, hareidi-religious and Arab communities.
The “safe houses” will be the first stage in the program, Herzog said. He expressed hope that the institutions would succeed in convincing young Jews not to fight with Border Police or local Arabs. “In the long term, a warm home and the proper framework can push the hilltops aside,” he said.
Herzog pushed leaders in the religious Zionist community to promote his initiative. By pushing “hilltop youth” towards government-sponsored “rehabilitation,” the Zionist-religious community can prevent a chasm developing between older and younger generations, he said. He accused community leaders of failing to provide the youth with treatment, and of making “cynical political use” of the teens instead.
"The hilltop youth challenge the laws, the institutions, the norms and the values of a civilized society,” Herzog said. “This is a phenomenon that endangers a modern Zionist society. Just as we handle criminal youth, we must handle hilltop youth—with rehabilitation alongside enforcement and judgment.”