(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Barack Obama’s visit and the Passover vacation have perhaps created a
speed bump in the daily routine of our new government, but the steam will pick
up in two weeks when everything returns to normal.
The ceremonies that
surround the installation of a new government have a way of raising the hopes of
the public that campaign promises will be fulfilled and reform is around the
On Tuesday, a day after the government was sworn in, Israel’s new
ministers were inaugurated in official “changing-of-the-guard”
At the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, outgoing
defense minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and other senior
officials attended a ceremony to mark the start of Moshe Ya’alon’s term as
Former deputy health minister Ya’acov Litzman handed
over the ministry to Yesh Atid’s Yael German.
Former education minister
Gideon Sa’ar moved into the Interior Ministry, replacing Eli Yishai, whose Shas
party joined the ranks of the opposition.
Yesh Atid’s Meir Cohen is the
new welfare and social services minister, and I am hopeful that he will succeed
in improving the lives of the many citizens who rely on his ministry for
According to the Foreign Ministry website, “Israel’s
comprehensive welfare system is based on legislation which provides for a broad
range of national and community services. Care of the elderly, support programs
for single parents, children and youth, prevention and treatment of substance
abuse, and assistance for new immigrants comprise a large part of available
social services. Correctional services encompass probation frameworks, remedial
programs for school dropouts, and residential and observational services for
youth in distress. Sheltered workshops and employment counseling are among the
rehabilitation services provided for the blind and physically
The ministry determines policy, initiates legislation, enacts
regulations for the operation of social services and supervises those offered by
public and private organizations.”
But the system is faulty and there is
still a lot of work to accomplish.
According to the Taub Center for
Social Policy Studies in Israel, “As a result of privatization of social
services in Israel, private spending is considerably higher and services are
provided by workers in non-governmental social service agencies with
substantially lower wages – with potentially commensurate reductions in service
Cohen will need to deal with a slashed budget and limited
resources to accomplish the stated aims of his ministry. I only hope he
NEWCOMER AND Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has enormous
challenges ahead of him as finance minister to try his hand at fixing a system
he found so much fault in.
But while Iran, the Palestinian issue and the
economy will remain at the top of the agenda, there are in fact other issues
that are absolutely crucial to determining the future of our
Naftali Bennett’s new position as economy and trade minister
means he can work to break monopolies – such as the ports – which create high
prices on imported goods, forcing consumers to overpay on, well, nearly
The public is fed up with overpriced housing costs,
outrageously high salaries in certain sectors, steep prices for basic goods, a
spendthrift government and rising living expenses.
From their unique
positions, Lapid and Bennett together can directly influence change in these
areas and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of suffering
As religious services minister, Bennett can change the way
official religious affairs are conducted and can attach a positive, palatable
face to religion.
But it is Education Minister Shai Piron who has the
true, challenging task ahead of him. Education represents the future, since
today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders. The next generation can still be
molded by ours. It is up to us to ensure that our youth grow up with the right
values, obtain the proper tools to secure a better future and contribute toward
a healthier society.
The Education Ministry’s aim is “to prepare children
to become responsible members of a democratic, pluralistic society in which
people from different ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds
coexist. It is based on Jewish values, love of the land, and the principles of
liberty and tolerance. It seeks to impart a high level of knowledge, with an
emphasis on scientific and technological skills essential for the country’s
The State Education Law of 1953 outlines “the
objectives of state education with regard to universal values; the values of
Israel’s society and heritage; remembrance of the Holocaust and heroism;
development of the child’s personality, abilities and creativity; various
disciplines of knowledge, science and the arts; physical activity; and culture
But, considering the high level of violence prevalent in
schools across the country, it would appear that many pupils today are not
walking away with these values.
Perhaps the Education Ministry should
launch an initiative to educate parents on how to maintain control and
discipline at home. It is not up to schools to teach children how to behave;
this is the responsibility of every parent.
Let’s hope this new
government, with its fresh batch of ministers, can tackle the nation’s biggest
problems and introduce the reform that the country’s citizens have been seeking.