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Shamelessness – This Winter’s Real Epidemic

It isn’t the flu bug that’s giving Israelis a feeling of nausea and head pains in unprecedented numbers this winter.  It’s an epidemic of shamelessness.

It’s President Weizman brazenly declaring that taking “gifts from a friend” is perfectly all right, even if you were an elected official and the friend was a businessman who enjoyed your connections (not to mention the commandos you sent to Panama to rescue him.) It’s President Weizman at a swearing in ceremony for judges, saying in front of three distinctly uncomfortable men in black robes that “I appreciate seeing the law today from the other side …”

It’s Ehud Barak,  saying that he “didn’t know” anything about the dozens of non-profits, many run by his brother-in-law, which poured illegal contributions into his election campaign, a campaign that depicted his opponent, Mr. Netanyahu, as a dishonest schemer.

It’s the picture of investigators rummaging through silver goblets, and other knickknacks pilfered from the government by former First Lady, Sara Netanyahu, who once went to visit the Time-Warner corporate headquarters in New York and after receiving two giant bags of toys for her children called up and asked that the bunny on one of the executive’s desks be sent to her hotel suite as well. (A story I heard personally from someone who worked there and almost died of shame at being Jewish and a supporter of Israel).

It’s the soldier who cowered in fear, ignoring his  fallen commander’s cries for help during a Hizzbolah attack in Lebanon, an attack which left his brave young commander dead, touring the country afterwards, giving public speeches in which he described his cowardice as an  “antiwar protest.” “I knew if I went down to help him, I’d be killed,” the soldier told a national audience on an evening news program, “and I didn’t want to die for such a meaningless cause.”

The soldier’s mother is one of the founders of the “Four Mothers“ group protesting Israel’s involvement in Lebanon.  Her son said these things sitting across from his fallen commander’s identical twin brother, who had to listen, along with his grieving family, not only to a description of his beloved brother waiting in vain for backup that never came, but also the cause he had died for described as worthless.

All this from a boy who had volunteered for duty in a crack army unit in which the members train closely to work together as a unit in the dangerous missions to which they are assigned.  All this from a boy whose fear for his own life –- while perfectly understandable, even pitiable, kept him from doing what he could to save his brother-in-arms.  Never having had to make such a terrible choice, I don’t presume to judge this young soldier’s actions while under attack. However, his activities afterwards are the epitome of shamelessness.  We can understand him, his agony, his distress, his embarrassment.  Decency demands that all of these be nursed at home, in silence, not in front of TV cameras and packed speaking engagements in which he justified himself at the expense of things far more precious than he can, apparently, perceive.

It’s the  former Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri,  suddenly developing respect for the court  system  he encouraged thousands of his followers to  denigrate, now that he hopes the Supreme Court will overturn his conviction for bribe-taking.

It’s Rabbi Ovadia Yosef — in lavish Sephardic rabbinical garb – calling our judges “ravishers of  unclean women (boalei niddot).”

It’s  our children being locked out of school for ten days because the government  couldn’t add a few hundred shekel to the embarrassingly meager salaries of the people we entrust with shaping our children’s  minds and characters.  It is this same government managing to come up with one billion shekel a year for stipends for yeshiva students to ensure its coalition agreements. I have yet to see yeshiva students needing to strike to get the money they receive from the government.

It’s the sight of the disabled, once again taking their wheelchairs back into the streets because the few thousand shekels promised them months ago has yet to arrive in their empty bank accounts.  It’s National Insurance workers refusing to transfer the allocated funds to the handicapped unless they get extra pay “for all the extra work involved.”

It’s the fact that Israel’s  President, its  former Prime Minister, and its  present Prime Minister are all under criminal investigations.

And yet, when I look at the members of our newly minted government, whom we elected partly because of a slick, campaign created by savvy, American experts, financed by a war chest crammed full of dishonest funds, it’s not the word “shamelessness” that comes to mind. It’s the word “candidate”, which comes from the Latin meaning “pure and honest.”

Good thing Hebrew isn’t a Latin-based language.

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