Don’t change your travel plans just yet. In a remarkable about-face, the
government announced on Monday that summer vacation will not be shortened this
year and that school will start as usual on September 1.
comes less than a week after the Education Ministry had declared that Israel’s
children would return to the classrooms on August 26.
head-spinning episode underlines a fundamental flaw and glaring imperfection at
the heart of Israel’s democracy: all too often, the people just are not part of
When the ministry initially proposed the August 26 date, it
naturally prompted an outcry from parents, students and the tourism
After all, how could the bureaucracy be so short-sighted as to
inform the public just two months in advance about such a change, when people
had already made travel plans, booked flights and reserved hotel rooms? It was a
decision that was completely out of touch with reality and devoid of logic, and
it left a lot of people scratching their heads, wondering what the powers that
be were thinking, or if in fact they were doing any thinking at all.
don’t believe for a moment that the reversal of the proposed move had anything
to do with the public. It didn’t.
As Education Minister Gideon Saar made
clear, the turnabout took place because the National Teachers’ Union objected,
claiming it would affect the calculation of vacation days for the nation’s
And so, in typical fashion, a major decision was made without
taking the populace into account, and it was withdrawn without regard for how
they may have felt.
Parents and children were but an afterthought, as
though their needs didn’t warrant a moment’s concern in shaping the parameters
of the school calendar.
Sadly, this affair is emblematic of many of the
senseless decisions that govern our lives.
INCREASINGLY, WE find
ourselves under the thumb of nameless, faceless and often brainless bureaucrats
who do not have our best interests at heart.
Take, for example, the
astonishing report that Israel plans to sell 10 million cubic meters of water
from the Kinneret to Jordan this summer. This is in addition to the 30 million
cubic meters of water we already give the Jordanians as part of the 1994 peace
Over the past year, the government spent millions of shekels on
an ad campaign with the aim of convincing the public to conserve water, citing
the dangerously low level of the Kinneret, which has not reached its maximum
capacity since 2004.
The price of water jumped precipitously, painful
fines were imposed on those who used large quantities, and people were
discouraged from washing their cars, watering their gardens and taking extended
Indeed, the Kinneret stands at -212.38 meters below sea level,
just slightly higher than the lower red line, and a mere 2.5 meters above the
But none of this seems to matter to the clueless government
hacks with their hands on the spigot. Even as they ask the public to save water,
they turn around and reportedly decide to sell this precious and scarce resource
to our neighbors.
What kind of message does this send? It is ever more
clear that Israelis are governed not by the people, but by an inflexible and
indifferent bureaucracy that is all but deaf to the needs of those it is
intended to serve.
It is a bureaucracy that has mismanaged our water and
now struggles even to schedule a school vacation properly.
after two millennia without the sovereign powers of self-rule, Israel has become
so enamored of government that we just cannot seem to get enough of it. We have
created a bloated and unwieldy system that is failing us all.
It is time
for this to change. We need to toss aside the socialist values that gave rise to
the mammoth monstrosity that governs our affairs and intrudes on every corner of
Israel desperately needs a Reagan revolution, one that
will cut government down to size, reduce red tape and let the vast talent and
entrepreneurial spirit of this nation come to the fore.
of the Nanny State is perhaps the gravest domestic threat to our personal
freedom and national prosperity.
We need to make government answerable
and accountable, and as small as possible.
“Democracy”, the author Oscar
Wilde once noted, “means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people for
But it doesn’t have to be that way, nor was it intended
Democracy really means giving voice to the yearnings of the nation
and forging a system in which the government works for the people, and not the
other way around.
That was the dream expressed in our national anthem,
which underlined the desire for us “to be a free people in our land.” But that
freedom is more and more at risk, as the behemoth of bureaucracy threatens to
quash everything in its path without mercy.
The time has come for us to
take it back and to once again allow the people to be the masters of their own
fate.The writer serves as chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a
Jerusalem-based organization that assists 'lost Jews''seeking to return to the