While the people of Israel are reeling from one bus bombing, drive-by shooting, and negotiating nightmare to another, the members of Israel’s Knesset are busy capitalizing on our distractions by passing one corrupt law after another. For example, when the recent wave of Arab killings began a few months ago, the haredi parties gleefully passed a law raising all the money coming out of government coffers for large families, a law meant to benefit haredim and Arabs.
And when the time came due to change the automatic exemption from army duty for yeshiva students, Knesset Members happily passed a law extending the exemption, thus postponing, if not canceling, any meaningful debate on the legitimacy of allowing Israeli citizens to use their religious beliefs as a draft dodge.
And now, this week, the crowning blasphemy of what is known as “Deri’s Law,” was ushered through a successful second vote in the depleted ranks of the Knesset. Proposed by that do-nothing, has-been-who–never-was Ruby Rivlin (what has this man ever done?) of the Likud, the law reduces the sentences of rapists, murders, robbers, and child molesters (among others) by half, instead of the present one-third. For “good behavior.”
While the Likud proposed the law and supported it, it was, of course, members of the Shas party who were the vanguard. With black kippot on their head, and minyans three times a day, and a bible in every corner, they are attempting to turn the already revolving door of our prison system into a sliding door that doesn’t have time to close before it opens again to let out the nation’s criminals.
Imagine it, Benny Sela, the Tel Aviv rapist who tortured, beat, and raped dozens of little girls and women ,terrorizing an entire city for months, could be back in Tel Aviv in fifteen or so years- courtesy of Shas and the Likud.
Before the scandalous and unconscionable law came up for a vote, parents of murdered children wandered fruitlessly through the corridors of the Knesset begging Knesset members to vote against it. As reported in Yediot Acharonot, bereaved mother, Ora Baraz, whose daughter was murdered, pleaded for the law’s defeat: “It is an immoral law that shows the callous attitude of the State towards the victims of violence. For fifty years this country has been passing laws to improve the rights and conditions for criminals, while the victims and their families have been ignored. Now rapists, child molesters,and thieves will wander among us in droves.”
But these heartfelt words apparently fell on deaf ears. Knesset members like Dalia Itzik, Avraham Burg, Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Roni Milo — very vocal friends of jailed former Minister of the Interior and power behind Shas, Aryeh Deri decided not to show up to vote against the law tailor-made to help their friend, a convicted bribe-taker and felon, avoid serving even a fraction of his jail term.
As we sit here on the eve of a fateful election, it is heartbreaking that the people of Israel now face a choice between Ehud Barak, who has allowed our security to become so lax that the only current Israeli response to terrorism is to die; and Ariel Sharon, whose party has aligned itself with criminals and ruthless opportunists like Shas, in passing laws that bring us all closer to living in a corrupt banana republic.
As we weep for the terrible days behind us, and the even more devastating days ahead if we continue in the direction we’re going, we should weep loudest for the bankruptcy of the entire political leadership of this country as it continues to fail the people of Israel on every front: political, moral, and spiritual.
We had a dream, all of us, those who were born on the kibbutzim in 1948, and those who flocked to the little Jewish state in all the years since then: we dreamt of building a beautiful little haven for the remnants of the Jewish people, wherever they lived. We would be the flower of 3,500 years of Jewish prayer, learning, poetry, Talmudic law, Bible study. We would plant fruit trees, and reap harvests in green fields. We would work with our own hands to build safe homes for every Jew from every land; we would banish fear, and want, and injustice from our peoples’ history.
We would be here together, no outsiders, all children of the same father, all equal. We would find our way back to our roots, deepen our understanding and our practice of the moral law that made us a special nation, that was our gift to the world.
Israel, 2001. What a mess it’s all become. What a shattered dream. But I still believe. The Israeli people are depressed. They are not listening, their attention elsewhere, in the bullets that are flying, the buses exploding. We need to focus.
And when the “Deri Law” comes up for its third and final vote before becoming law, we have to let our politicians know that “Deri’s Law” for the encouragement of crime, has no place in our country, or in our dream.