(photo credit: Channel 2)
There is a pathetic Israeli joke about a newly minted "born-again" Jew who approaches his Orthodox rabbi towards the end of November with a question: "I'm sorry, but do we say Ya'aleh Veyavo on Thanksgiving?," he asks.
"What's Thanksgiving?", says the rabbi, which immediately ends the dialogue.
He then turns to the more progressive rabbi in town: "I'm sorry, but do we recite Ya'aleh Veyavo on Thanksgiving?"
"What's Ya'aleh Veyavo?" answers the rabbi.
In desperation, our well-meaning if na ve Jew approaches the Israeli who has just moved into his neighborhood: "I'm sorry, but perhaps you might know if we say Ya'aleh Veyavo on Thanksgiving?"
"What's 'I'm sorry'?" responds the confused Israeli.
IS IT really important to say "I'm sorry," you ask. After all, what's done is done. But it is very important, teaches our Jewish tradition, even going so far as to rule that confession (vidui) - which fundamentally consists of recognition of sin and an expression of contrition for having committed a wrongdoing, in effect saying I'm sorry - is the essence of repentance, and that it in itself is sufficient to grant the perpetrator Divine forgiveness.
And why is "I'm sorry" so significant? Because at the very least it tells me that the sinner understands he made such a mistake, even if it was an unwitting mistake, and so there is at least a possibility that he will not repeat it again.
Did any representative of our government attend Fatima Slotzker's funeral and say I'm sorry publicly? After all, unilateral disengagement from Gaza was supposed to have made the people in Sderot safer from - and not more vulnerable to - attack. The minimum responsibility a government has toward its citizenry is protection of their lives; if the increased Kassams and now loss of life in Sderot are the result of a misguided foreign policy, at the very least ought not the architects of that policy say "I'm sorry?"
AND WHAT about the 7,000-8,000 heroic citizen-residents of Gush Katif, who were praised by every government since the Six Day War for magnificently performing a critical service to our nation by being where they were and by turning desert into gardens of flowers, fruits and vegetables exported all over the world?
They were then forced to surrender home and life's work on the altar of this same misguided policy of unilateral disengagement. It turns out that they were exiled from the very homes and communities which they built with their own hands - with no suitable places prepared for them to go to (despite lying television ads to the contrary) - for, as we now understand, no justifiable reason.
Indeed, in the aftermath of their departure, the security of the South and even our right to the settlement blocs has only diminished in the eyes of the world. Has any of those who enforced the uprooting of those settlements begged the pardon of those displaced citizen-settlers - many if not most of whom have yet to be properly settled?
AND HAS anyone begged forgiveness of the brave soldiers of the IDF who went into battle filled with patriotic motivation and righteous zeal, hoping to march to victory on behalf of our country's northern flank?
Innocent citizen victims from Afula to Kiryat Shmona were forced underground into shelters - some of which were non-existent - by the barrage of artillery secured by Hizbullah after we left Lebanon with our tail between our legs. Government after government turned a blind eye to our enemies' constant and consistent military build-up.
AND WHAT of those who lost life and limb during a misguided and mismanaged war, marked by conflicting orders and confused directions, after failing to provide our soldiers with even the most basic necessities, such as flak jackets and proper nutrition? Has anyone asked forgiveness of them and of their bereaved families?
And finally have we - all of us - asked forgiveness of our children for having bequeathed to them a government led by those responsible for all the above, individuals who have yet to say they are sorry and who have not so much as provided an alternative policy?
In the case of our political leadership, some of those in the highest of offices are so taken up with charges of corruption that they cannot be expected to have the time and energy to forge a plan for our future; and in the case of our IDF leaders, they are so concerned with commission findings and clearing their names that they hardly have the luxury of reorganizing our army from disrepair?
At least I, with a breaking heart, wish to apologize to my grandchildren for remaining silent in the face of a political system whose Knesset Members are not accountable to a voting electorate, only to a party, and whose failed leaders still hold the reins of power and the keys to what appears to be - if I see the world only with a realistic perspective - our fragile future.
The writer is rabbi of Efrat.