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In 1979 when we made aliya, the local sport in Kiryat Yam seemed to be riding around, two on a bicycle, after dark with no lights, and going in the opposite direction to the traffic.
When some of us asked our teacher in the ulpan if there wasn't a law against this, she bristled, and replied, "We have very good laws in the country."
Then, slightly deflated, she added, "but people don't often keep them."
Still, in 1979 Israel was a paradise compared to strikebound, dirty, graffiti-stained Britain. In fact, as we remarked at the time, the atmosphere in Israel was comparable to that of Britain two or three decades previously.
Unfortunately we have now caught up.
It need not have been so. On February 20, 1978, an article appeared in The Jerusalem Post by Abraham Rabinovich, under the heading "Shimron blames the general disrespect for the law," and giving a synopsis and analysis of the report by Erwin Shimron on the work of the Shimron committee.
Who was/is Erwin Shimron? What, if anything, was done about the conclusions of the Shimron Report on Crime?
In 1978, when corruption and organized crime were at lower levels than today, the Shimron report blasted the law courts, the Treasury, the police and the licensing authorities for not efficiently utilizing the resources at their disposal. It was also recommended that society, as a whole, be encouraged to adopt stricter rules of behavior.
So from a 1978 report which seems to have been buried without trace, a report which called for zero tolerance of misbehavior and minor misdemeanors lest they grow and proliferate into major graft, corruption and organized crime, we have arrived, nearly three decades later, at just such a situation.
IS IT TOO late to stop the rot? Possibly, but not necessarily. What is definitely not needed is yet another expensive government enquiry, committee, report or cover-up. We need a respected figure to resurrect, reinspect and reissue the Shimron Report. It should be required reading by the upper echelons of government and law enforcement.
But more than that, we have to start examining ourselves from the bottom up and top down. Starting from the bottom, stealing starts easy, simply, and with small things or minor amounts.
Undetected and unpunished, it grows from there. The boy who steals from his mother's purse, or shop-lifts from the local grocery, is father to the man with a knife, a gun or a laptop, capable of stealing or ripping off millions.
As parents, educators and administrators we have to be wary and prepared to step in with actions that make it plain that nothing - nothing at all - that is against the law or that is ethically or morally objectionable will be tolerated. We have to start to educate a whole future generation to the fact that crime must not be allowed to pay.
The problem is how we can condemn minor infringements when the people at the top pay lip service to equality before the law. How can we persuade the small trader whom the income tax authority catches accepting cash that his or her punishment is justified when those who own millions in cash, shares and property can afford to put their money into safe, tax-free accounts and live well on the results?
THE DECAYING stench of corruption moves like a miasma around too many of our top officials. Investigations are allowed to go on for months and even years while selected tidbits of juicy gossip are leaked to the press.
It should not be that way. Someone is accused, the police gather evidence, the police present the evidence, the person is charged, at which time the charges are made public; or not charged, in which case they should be publicly cleared and all evidence leading to that conclusion should be published. There should be no understanding or forgiveness for a judiciary or police force that leaks like a sieve.
Our leaders, whether self-appointed or duly elected, should, like Caesar's wife, be above suspicion. Children should from an early age be encouraged to be that old fashioned word: good. The role models our youth adopt must be held accountable for the kind of behavior they encourage. And the media could, and should, do a great service by republishing and commenting on the Shimron Report.
The tools were already there in 1978. All that is needed is to dust them off, oil them a little, and start getting them to work.
The writer is a retired office administrator.
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