Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the day of our joy, gives us an opportunity before the seventieth year of the existence of the State of Israel to crystallize and clarify the national aspirations which we have yet to fulfill.
The issue of national security is of primary importance, we are dedicated to it with all our souls and we expend all our efforts to support it, both as a nation and as individuals. There is no doubt that we will continue with our efforts to increase our strength so that our enemies will never get the best of us. On the other hand, the desire to maintain the Jewish character of the country in its sovereign mechanisms is unfortunately a broad consensus only within our own ranks. There is always room for a greater effort, especially to try to embed our yearning in the education and the culture of the entire nation, by pleasant methods based on internal peace in the land.
Stability and Guarding Life
I would like to list four challenges which we have not been successful in meeting, and which can help us guarantee our future as individuals and as a community.
(1) Governmental Stability – The government in Israel is characterized today by elements of instability and constant change. Our ability to rule is defective because of a governmental culture that is based too much on improvisation and gut reactions, a lack of proper planning, uncertainty, an inability to see beyond the horizon, frequent changes in the law, frequent reforms, and a lack of confidence that the government will keep its word.
Enough is enough! We have reached maturity. The stage of “startup” and the techniques of “trial and error” and “trust me” that were necessary when we established the state and settled in must come to an end. We have had enough of improvising and “see if you can get away with it” in running the country. The time has come for the citizens to feel security and operational stability, such that businessmen and investors will be taxed on a stable basis. The citizens want the law to be treated as law, without any mockery.
(2) Maintaining the Principle of Protecting Lives – “You shall live through them” [Vayikra 18:5]. We are shocked, and rightly so, about every soldier who is killed and about every victim of terrorism. On the other hand, we are willing to accept some 370 deaths a year from traffic accidents. We are apathetic about thousands of deaths from infections in hospitals. However, we regularly dedicate our efforts to campaigns for contributions to save a single sick person by sending him or her abroad for a very expensive operation. And does anybody pay attention to dozens of fatalities a year in construction accidents and to more than a hundred children a year who die in home accidents, drowning, or heat exposure when left in locked cars by their parents? And what about the thousands of people who remain handicapped as a result of all of these accidents?
Enforcement and Social Justice
(3) A Need for a Revolutionary Improvement in Enforcement – We have an exemplary system of law in terms of international standards. The government and the Knesset throughout their generations have created a legal system that provides a good basis in all walks of life. However, the weak link in all of this is the disgraceful governmental contempt for enforcing the law. In many areas there is almost no enforcement. Examples are transportation (when is the last time you saw a police car patrolling the roads?) and urban planning and construction (when have illegal buildings been destroyed as an appropriate reaction to the “jungle” of unregulated construction, except of course at such high-profile sites as Migron and the Ulpana Hill in Beit El?). Anybody who believes that a complaint to the police about theft, burglary, neighborhood disputes, and the like will receive prompt attention is not living in this country.
(4) Social Justice and Reduction of Poverty and the Social Economic Gap – The time has come for us to relinquish our world records in these subjects among the developing nations. The evils are not moral, and they are a danger to our national robustness. Can we really expect somebody who because of his address and/or the fact that he is from a poor family is fated to be part of yet another generation of poverty and lack of resources to serve the country as a citizen who contributes to the general good?
The root of our evil is the relatively low number of public servants in all walks of life (police, judges, physicians, and more) as compared to the OECD developed countries. We have become a “free nation.” Everybody is free to make up his own mind, and the government is free not to enforce the need for individual responsibility among its citizens. Is that what we mean by the line “to be a free nation in our land” in the national anthem, Hatikva?
The Community and the Individual
The time has come to strengthen the values which have brought us to the stage where we are. We must “recalculate our route” in terms of life and culture, which as of now puts great emphasis on personal achievements, and move on to providing support for the sovereign and nationalistic objectives and to strengthen mutual social responsibility.
I do not have any intention of ruining the joy of the coming holiday. Rather, I have come to awaken our souls so that we will live in a more perfect and a more pleasant land. The joy of Yom Ha’atzma’ut should include our aspiration to mend the faults, the evil, and the failures. Let the joy and thanksgiving lead us to a great hope that we will be able to accomplish our goals. Let us rise up to a higher level than before.