Fifteen years ago, TV personality Dudu Topaz had a one-man show, "Slip of the Tongue". It was a wry play of words on Topaz's own indiscretion in the 1980s election, about lowlifes (chach-chachim) voting for a certain party. Anyway, Slip of the Tongue was about an Israeli (Topaz) about to move to Australia. For two hours he listed the disadvantages of life in Israel and the upside of moving down under. "You can read the paper there without getting depressed," he said.
Yet after the two-hour monologue, he decides to stay in Israel. Why? Only in in Israel is it depressing to read the paper because you care what's written there, he concluded.
In that, Topaz nailed down Israel's most important asset: caring.
The average Israeli cares about his country. A lot. True, he complains from dawn to dusk about the situation in the country; he gazes wistfully at standards of living in the rich western nations; he knows he'll never achieve similar standards in Israel.
True, the quality of life in Israel is iffy; between the terrorism to the red tape to the corruption in government, one doesn't have much desire left to serve the state and pay tax.
Yet despite all, the average Israeli cares. He cares that the education system is collapsing. He cares about the future of his children here. He cares about the situation in the Palestinian territories and about the tensions between the religious and secular.
Even if he leaves Israel, he continues to care. Just look how many Israelis come back, even ones who really made it abroad.
That country, it's mine
Caring is Israel's most important asset. It must not be allowed to erode. The average Israeli's identification with his country, for all its ills, must be preserved. For that to happen, one value must take precedence: that the State of Israel be managed for the sake of the benefit of its citizens. Israeli government, however inefficient and misguided at times, must act at all times in the national interest.
Plenty of Israeli governments have made mistakes, some of them bad ones. Some decisions were so controversial they almost caused rifts in society. But so far nobody has doubted that all Israeli governments acted with the interests of the country in mind. Whatever their results, their intentions were good.
The greatest danger to Israel is the election of a government whose intentions are in doubt. A government whose actions may not be designed to benefit the people, only certain people. Such doubt would melt the bonds holding Israel together. Citizens would no longer identify with government and would stop caring.
Israelis love to carp about government and corrupt officials who do little but feather their nests. There in lies the danger, that we become apathetic to corruption in government and to its corrosive effect on society. Apathy abets corruption. The people stop punishing errant politicians; and good people refuse to serve because the game is rotten.
We must not become apathetic to political corruption. We must not accept a reality in which "everybody is corrupt, so there's no point in trying to find one who's not to vote for".
The truth is that not everybody is corrupt. The truth is that some politicians are good; they hate corruption and act to promote the general good, not their own. Every thinking voter in Israel can distinguish between the good people, and the ones who are not. We just have to care enough when making our choice in the voting booth, for the sake of our children.
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