One thing's for sure: We aren't falling apart

We expect 'the state' to take care of everything, even our own mothers.

By TOMMY LAPID
September 16, 2007 20:31
3 minute read.
tommy lapid downcast 298.88

tommy lapid 298.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Israel is not falling apart. Yes, Israel has problems, perhaps more serious ones than most other countries in the Western world, but it is not falling apart. Those serious problems are a result of its relations with the Palestinians, the Arab world and fundamentalist Islam. That said, and contrary to the impression created in the media, Israel as a country is functioning quite well. Its educational system is not "falling apart." Its health system is not "falling apart." Its legal system is not "falling apart." Its military is not "falling apart." Neither are its police force or civil service. And Israel's economy speaks for itself. So why does it feel as if everything is on the verge of falling apart? There are two reasons. One is that we have become a selfish, "me" country. On television, we see a battered elderly woman lying in bed, her face swollen black and blue, her head bandaged. Two thugs broke into her home and tortured her to make her reveal where she had hidden her money. Her daughter is standing next to her bed, her face showing her concern, her eyes filled with compassion. "It's because you live all alone," the reporter tells the elderly woman. "I don't have anyone," responds the woman. Here her daughter interrupts. "The state doesn't take care of its elderly." It doesn't enter her mind that she should be the one taking care of her mother. Why should she, when there's a state? And if the state isn't taking care of her mother, it must be falling apart. We have turned president John F. Kennedy's famous challenge completely upside down. He said: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." But here, we ask only what our country can do for us. Can do? Should do! Should do? Must do! When? Right away. Why? Because. THE SECOND element that has created the impression that the country may be falling apart lies in the nature of the media. When a reporter is sent to report on a burst sewage pipe in the greater Tel Aviv area, he knows that an item describing "difficulties" in the sewage system has no chance of getting any attention. But if the headline says "greater Tel Aviv sewage line collapsing," it will make the front page. This is because no one living in the greater Tel Aviv area wants to drown in sewage. The pipe is repaired in a day or two, but the impression created in the public's minds and hearts is that yet another system is falling apart, this time the sewage system. One can always find a wretched, toothless old woman with a bent back living in a dilapidated shack in a slum neighborhood to prove that the social services are also falling apart. Indeed, the social and welfare services cannot always guarantee proper welfare for all those suffering from poverty and hardship. But falling apart? In a country that has national social insurance and supplementary income payments? Yes, the social-welfare gaps have widened. But it's not because the poor are receiving less than in the past. On the contrary, they're receiving more. It is because far more people are earning more money and living better than ever before. Not only the top one-thousandth of a percent of Israeli society, but the entire middle class. It isn't falling apart; it's vacationing in Turkey or touring China. Every time a new survey is published showing that the vast majority of Israelis are happy with their lives, the headline says "Surprising Survey." Who's surprised? The media. Why? Because after all the effort they have put into convincing the public that everything is falling apart, the public refuses to believe that it is. Israelis like to whine. They like to demand more, and reach further. But the country isn't falling apart. The writer is a former minister of justice and former MK.

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