Someone has to be responsible for producing the warped minds of those who
defaced the beauty and raped the silence of the Trappist Monastery in Latrun
earlier this week, leaving insults so basic, uncouth and ignorant on its
aesthetic exterior that a caveman would blush.
Someone must be
responsible for producing the sub-teen fanatics who are suspected of torching the
car of an Arab family driving in the West Bank a few weeks back; or those who
kicked an Arab youth almost to death in the center of Jerusalem at around the
same time, and then told the media they were proud of what they
Someone must be responsible for creating the young generation,
supposed idealists, who spit and fight the Israeli army when it is sent on its
unhappy mission to uphold the law in territories whose legal status hangs
between heaven and earth and where anarchy reigns in the meantime.
could have educated their children that hatred is a value; that to slash the
tires of military jeeps and trucks of the very same army that defends the
settlements is okay? Who is responsible for this generation of youngsters in
Israeli society who hate the law, the courts, those who think differently, with
so much passion, that they have lost sight of their own future, other than to
spread more hatred in their stead? And who is responsible for perpetuating a
state of never-never-land in the territories, leaving people in limbo, both
Israelis and Palestinians, and creating more fanatics, both Israelis and
How can people build a life when sent to live on a hilltop with a
nod and a wink, and promises of a great future, this against the policies of the
government and the law of the land? And how can people be expected to live
forever with the promise of their own independent country, yet see nothing
change for the better in more than four decades, and much happen to make it seem
that an independent Palestine in the territories will just never actually
And on Wednesday, late in the afternoon, I wondered who was responsible
for the education of the 80 or so modern-Orthodox teens on a school tour that
took them along Jerusalem’s majestic promenade, shouting “death to the Arabs” in
unison, with the four teachers walking along with them saying absolutely
nothing. It was only when their guide ordered them to be quiet because they
“risked having stones thrown at them” from the nearby Arab neighborhoods if they
carried on, that they stopped.
Nothing, however, was said about the
racist comments themselves, as if shouting “Death to the Arabs” was okay
somewhere where rocks can’t be hurled at you.
David Ben-Gurion was
responsible for underestimating the eventual size and impact of the
ultra-Orthodox military exemption issue, and for wrongfully creating two
separate state school systems: the national-religious schools with their own
syllabus, values and worldview; and the secular schools where, for the most
part, religious studies were related to in the same way some of us were forced
to learn Latin for matric.
Any visionary is allowed to make mistakes, especially
when his overall contribution to the fledgling state far outweighed any errors
in judgment. But who is responsible for what has happened in both these regards
The impossibility of continuing with the ultra-Orthodox situation as
is, and the dangers of the anti-democratic dogma now dominating at least parts
of what used to be a moderate religious school system, have been known about for
Who is responsible for years of inaction, for the botched
inheritance we are handing down to the next generation, where national insurance
payments to large, economically unproductive families may become more explosive
for the stability of the country than a nuclear Iran?
And how long have we all
complained about the stilted democratic system we have? About the
disproportionate power our coalition system gives marginal parties and avowed
political enemies to sit at the same cabinet table, usually with more intent to
undermine each other than work together? Anything serious done to change this
over the years? Has any leader since the founding of the state modified the
system, despite knowing full well that this is no way to run a country?
the same politicians over and over again, albeit usually finding them on new
lists joined out of political expediency, not ideology, as per Ehud Barak, the
perennial defense minister, for example. For decades now leader after leader has
promised change to the electoral system, but nothing has been done. If anything,
the system is more fractured, the inequalities greater, the bigotry louder and
the self-interest more blatant than ever.
Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon
were leaders who made a difference. Both were cut short in different, but
equally cruel, ways. They, like Menachem Begin and Ben-Gurion, were stronger
than the system and could enforce their will. They took responsibility for their
actions and paid for the consequences, in Rabin’s case, with his
Since then the country has been run by default, by
jugglers. It has been “wink-and-nod” government, not
leadership. The roads and railways are better, but the fundamental
problems have not been dealt with.
If anything, not grappling with them
has only made them worse. Doing nothing breeds erosion, spreads confusion,
creates loopholes, fosters growing disregard for the law and leads to
unnecessary brawls with our closest allies.
There is responsibility for
claiming leadership and doing nothing to change what the entire society knows
are fundamental ills. There is even more responsibility on the shoulders
of an experienced politician, in the third year of his second term, at the head
of a solid coalition and with all the political cards in his pocket, when he
does nothing but tread backward.
The ultimately responsibility for all
this, however, lies with us, the electorate. For years now we have let our
leaders get away with words, words, words, and a better road system. This prime
minister has the support, skills, experience and time to make a real
But will he take the responsibility to do so? Hirsh Goodman
is an author and journalist. His most recent book,
The Anatomy of Israel’s
Survival, won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the history category.
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