Elderly Israelis wait to vote at a polling station..
(photo credit: Reuters)
Agood friend of mine is mourning the loss of her elderly neighbor. David lived
upstairs from her in Ramat Gan. His body was only discovered after my friend
complained about a smell in the communal stairwell. It turned out that David had
died about two weeks previously, but nobody knew. My friend feels guilty that
she didn’t notice. She feels responsible in some way. She fails to understand
how in this day and age, it’s possible for someone to be so alone that such a
thing can happen.
What does it say about Israel today, when in a
reasonably comfortable building in a leafy suburb, it takes two weeks to realize
a man has died? What kind of society have we created? On a tangent, I was
driving past the Ra’anana junction with my father recently.
that the trempiada (hitchhiking stop) had been closed. Established by volunteers
in 1982 during the first Lebanon war, it had been a welcome oasis, providing
drinks and sandwiches to hitchhiking soldiers making their way to and from the
front. This got me thinking about the time when hitchhiking soldiers were a
common sight. As a soldier, I remember catching a lift with many a driver, all
of them only too happy to help me out. As a driver, I have always been keen to
stop and give someone a lift, perhaps in an attempt to return the
Alas, today soldiers are not allowed to hitchhike, and the country
is much the worse for it. When our young men and women were out on the streets
for all to see, in a manner of speaking they were our kids. We felt
obliged to help out, and were happy to do so. Whether we had served or not, we
felt connected, part of something bigger than ourselves. We didn’t stop to
think, what is in it for us? We saw it as an integral part of living in this
As the need to ferry our young heroes across the nation
disappeared, so, apparently, did the need to worry about anything but
ourselves. Today the obsession with self permeates Israeli society. At
the top of the socioeconomic ladder, the few who control so much of the wealth
continue their obsession with acquiring the little they don’t already own,
regardless of the cost in all its guises to the rest of the country. Alarmingly
the government is all too willing to assist them in this pursuit. In the
Knesset, where MKs are supposed to represent all the people, special-interest
groups think nothing of holding the country to ransom to advance their own
agendas, regardless of the impact on their fellow citizens.
Hanging on by
their fingernails, the middle classes who are being squeezed so hard from all
angles find they have little time for others as they struggle to pay the rent or
the mortgage and battle against the ever-increasing cost of living.
poor and disenfranchised feel as if they have less and less of a stake in
society, so they think only about survival in a harsh and uncaring society that
has abandoned them. It is no wonder that they have little time or sympathy for
foreign workers and refugees, who find themselves at the bottom of this
collapsing society that today is anything but civil.
Our young look at
the society they are supposedly going to inherit and wonder about the point of
it all. What role models can they hope to emulate? What future should they
expect? What is their incentive to serve in the army if, as they see it, Israel
today is all about looking out for “No. 1”?
It’s true that many of these
problems are common throughout the developed world, but Israel is no ordinary
country. Indeed, perhaps it’s our obsession with becoming
an ordinary country
that has led us astray. We need to take a serious look at ourselves and decide
what we want to be, because (in case you hadn’t noticed) we already have a host
of very grown-up problems to deal with.
I do not crave times gone by for
the sake of nostalgia. I just believe that in our race to “progress,” we have
discarded some of the best things about us. These elements need to be
reintroduced for the 21st century.
It’s time to recapture the spirit that
built this country. It’s time that the word Zionism stopped being perverted to
serve the interests of narrow and extreme minorities. True Zionism is about
ensuring a Jewish democracy for all its citizens, where the values and
traditions that represent the best of Judaism direct our actions and behavior to
the betterment of humanity. Israel is a small country living under difficult
circumstances, with a diverse, multifaceted character. We need each other in
order to flourish. If so few succeed while the majority can only struggle to
survive, we will all fail. If we work together, with success for all as a
genuine goal, there is no end to what we can achieve. For such achievements to
mean something, however, they have to serve society as a whole.
erosion of our core values and of our civil society is not irreversible, but it
must be addressed. It may take our leaders some time to catch up and understand
that they work for us, and not the other way around. They will no doubt need to
be pushed. However, we all have a part to play. For starters, we can pay more
attention to what goes on around us and how events affect others. It may not
sound like a great deal, but you’d be surprised how much can be achieved with
just a little.
No more people like David should die alone.The
writer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer. He also works as a
communications and TV consultant. He is currently working with MK Isaac Herzog
on his campaign for the Labor Party leadership.