The period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is a time of repentance, but also
a time to ask questions. What did we accomplish this year? What did we do wrong?
Did we make promises but not keep them? Did we lie? The list goes on and
Politicians promised us that this administration would be different,
better. They promised to lower taxes and to slash the haredi yeshiva budget.
They assured us that everyone would share the burden of protecting our country
and that we’d have more money to spend on our families. They guaranteed that the
educational system and learning conditions would be improved, which would lead
to a higher level of learning and better grades. They consented to help the
weaker communities in Israel.
They promised to invest in infrastructure,
roads and trains, so that we could get from one place to another quicker than it
would take to walk there. They swore that Israel would be secure, but with a
smaller, smarter and more efficient military, so that we could reduce the
They told us that the economy would grow, that tycoons
are good for business, and that the banks are promoting growth in the
They promised us an Arab Spring and improved security, political
negotiations and new priorities. They made declarations about separating capital
and government, fighting corruption and reducing crime levels. They appointed a
new minister of culture and sport who vowed that our athletes would bring home
international medals. They launched reforms in the automobile and mobile phone
industries that would bring down prices considerably.
They said we’d pay
lower bank fees and that we’d have an easier time purchasing a home. They
promised that broadcasting organizations would implement changes and that cable
and satellite companies would face increased competition and therefore charge
They assured us that by 2012 metropolitan Tel Aviv would have a
light rail, just like all other big cities in the developed world.
declared that they would stop letting the overly powerful trade unions run the
country, and change them back into what they used to be: protectors of working
And the most important thing that they promised us was a new
system of government and a reformed electoral process that would cure the ills
of the existing administration.
They promised all this last year. And the
year before. And the year before that. In the meantime, the elections came and
went and the Israeli people forgot all about these promises and are busy
surviving day by day. Life goes on as usual.
There is no new political
system because votes are still being sold and large labor unions are still
making deals with politicians who are willing to sell their souls to the highest
bidder. Even the promoters of this “new” political system realize the old system
is here to stay and are busy trying to make their way through the
Taxes have actually risen and because we are so creative, we’ve
even created new ones, instead of cutting funding to yeshivas as was promised.
Families have less and less money as time goes on. According to the Taub Center
for Social Policy Studies in Israel, the OECD ranked Israel at the bottom of the
list for productivity, as a result of bureaucracy and poor infrastructure. And
reforms whose aim was to have all citizens “share the burden” have turned into a
sad joke and have been left sitting in the defense minister’s closed
Classrooms are even more crowded now, exam scores are falling and
the single achievement we can boast is that all the students at a high school in
Beit Jann passed their matriculation exams.
Disadvantaged families and
poorer municipalities have not received the aid they require. Teachers do not
have improved conditions or salaries and the billions of shekels that were
supposed to be moved from defense to education have yet to be
Funds that were earmarked for infrastructure have not yet
been transferred, and as a result, roads will not be built, tracks for the train
to Eilat will not be laid and interchanges will not be built. Car prices have
risen even though they are more expensive in Israel than anywhere else in the
world due to outlandish taxation.
Excise tax on gasoline is also much
higher than in other countries.
The defense budget, which was finally
reduced, is slowly expanding once again; the military will stay big and
Suddenly all of the tycoons are crashing and being charged
with theft and fraud, and the banks that loaned them money are denying any
responsibility and demanding what they are owed. The banks are showing increased
profits and are growing as a result of the fees they charge ordinary citizens to
make up for the hundreds of millions of shekels in debts that they’ve accrued
following their pardoning of the tycoons.
They have been busy promoting
business, but mostly just their own.
The Arab Spring has turned into an
Arab Winter. Politics and money have not been separated and corruption in the
public sphere has reached all-time levels. Israeli sports teams continue to
embarrass us, since sports organizations are run by mediocre businessmen. We are
lucky that here and there we have judo and swimming champions despite their lack
of national backing.
The Israel Broadcast Authority continues to collect
fees and openly carries out its corrupt practices, all the while failing to
broadcast any quality programs whatsoever. Cellular phone costs have not fallen
and are still among the highest in the world. The electoral process has not
actually been reformed, unions continue to run the country and we are still
paying hundreds of shekels for satellite and cable broadcasting.
most important thing is that we will continue to get together with friends on
Friday evenings to complain.
I wonder what our elected leaders will be
doing this Yom Kippur. What will they be thinking about as they sit in synagogue
or at home? Will they think about whether they’ve achieved their goals? Or will
they not bother thinking about any of this, since nothing substantive will
happen before the next election. They know that they’ll once again promise to
carry out an endless list of changes that the citizens of Israel will eagerly
believe will happen, even though deep down they know none of them will come to
These politicians know that when Yom Kippur is over, the gates
of heaven will close and everyone will go back to their routines.
will continue to shout out our demands. Who knows, maybe next year everything
will be different and we might actually be “a light unto the nations.” Or at
least I can still dream about it.
The writer is a former
brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security
Translated by Hannah Hochner.