Senator Ben Sasse Applauds Israeli Culture, Teens in Jewish State Who Understand ‘Actual Meaning of Life’
A rising star Republican senator commented positively on the wisdom of Israel’s teenagers, as opposed to the immaturity of their American counterparts, in a recent episode of a popular podcast hosted by a conservative political thinker.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska — appearing on the May 8 episode of Conversations with Bill Kristol, a series of “in-depth, thought provoking discussions with some of America’s leading thinkers and figures in public life,” according to its website — was speaking about the US culture of “perpetual adolescence,” the subject he covers in his new book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance.
Halfway through the interview, Sasse brought up his experiences in the Jewish state some two-and-a-half years ago when during a dinner in a private home in Tel Aviv, he spoke with a couple of Israeli teenage boys preparing to be drafted into military service.
“Along the way, I asked them some question about what [they] think about American high school kids,” said Sasse. “[They told me], ‘We have a bunch of cousins…on Long Island and so we spend time in the US, and it’s great…But, frankly, what’s weird to me,’ [said] one of these kids, ‘is that I play an online video game with a lot of my cousins and their buddies…and it’s great…But I realize that next year, I’m going to put down the video game and I’m going to be at real war — and they’re still going to be playing a video game.”
Sasse said the teenager told him, “I don’t know if your kids would be able to defend the world, if they needed to defend your country, the way my friends here and I have to do. [A] video game is an escape, but we don’t think its possibly the actual meaning of life — and some of our cousins on Long Island don’t seem like they know that.”
“It was telling,” Sasse concluded.
Sasse, who said he’s traveled to Israel “at least once a year” since he assumed office in 2015, also described a surprising visit to an Iron Dome battery, where he was to be briefed on the aerial defense system.
“I’m getting ready to see these, you know, hulking 30-year-old macho men….and all of a sudden, these two 16, 17-year-old girls with long hair come out…and this gal, this girl, this soldier comes out and she shakes my hand and tells me the story of [the Iron Dome],” he said, noting that his own daughters were only a few years younger than the IDF troops. “It was really, really impressive.”
Kristol, founder and editor-at-large of the Weekly Standard, compared the worldly perspectives of Israeli soldiers to American GIs, who first attended university in their early-to-mid twenties after fighting World War II.
“[They] had more sense of urgency, more of a sense of what mattered,” Kristol said, though he also argued that there is a “trade-off” in beginning a university education later in life.
Watch Sasse’s full conversation with Kristol below. The discussion of Israel begins at 29:20: