The connections between Israeli greed and the existential threat
As Israel catches up to the West, it will become increasingly difficult to uphold self-sacrifice as a social value.
One of the worst social divides, which is widening in Israeli society, is the inconceivable gap between the heavy price which the defense of the country still commands and the hedonist values that a portion of the elite that leads society has embraced, followed by a substantial portion of the public at large.
This not only relates to outright corruption, such as has been attributed to the main characters in the Holyland case, and not only the political elite. It also applies to the hedonistic values that are not only an expression of actual conduct, but have also become a new kind of explicit ethos. The ultimate legitimate goal is maximizing profits and the pursuit of riches. It's a matter of looking after one's own interests, and the only limitations in the best-case scenario are limits imposed by the law.
The connection between the security situation and social norms involves several aspects. It's very possible that the speedy transition in Israel, which has no counterpart in the West, of a society that was centered around a collective ideal of contributing to society (which in fact was not always fully put into practice) to a capitalist society in which the gaps are among the widest in the West, is also connected to the security situation and the level of the existential threat. This is in addition to general Western values.
The fact that Israel is the only country in the world whose very existence is threatened militarily, politically and intellectually, a country whose towns and citizens have for the past 20 years actually been targeted more than any other country in the world, could encourage the destruction of values, and the embrace of "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." It's akin to the mood during the last days of Pompey.
On the other hand, looking after one's own interests cannot be squared over time with the demands inherent in "living on the edge" and the demand that life be sacrificed in favor of the existence of the state and its security.
Memorial Day is the one day of the year in which the gaps in society are ostensibly bridged. Politicians and public figures from every segment of society as well as the political parties are sworn on this day "to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who died." This ideal, however, does not stand the test when they leave the cemetery, when they get a call from the lobbyist, the political wheeler-dealer or any of the other interested individuals on whom they feel dependent for their advancement.
In an attempt to at least symbolically bridge these gaps, a new practice should be developed (which of course could be imposed by law) through which in every government ministry and agency, public officials should hang a picture on the wall, alongside those of the president and prime minister, of a fallen soldier who was a relative, friend or even no relation, but whose story is touching, and who gave his life for the country. This would provide a constant reminder to our public officials of standards and the good judgment to which they are being asked to adhere.
Among religious communities, there is the practice of hanging pictures of important rabbis, following the precept of "shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, but thine eyes shall see thy Teacher," not necessarily as an amulet, as is assumed, but rather so the inquiring eyes of religious and spiritual authorities be visible when decisions are made and actions undertaken. On the other hand, the head of the Mossad espionage agency, Meir Dagan, unveiled a picture in his office of his grandfather, who was a victim of Nazi persecution, to remind Dagan constantly of his absolute obligation in light of the Holocaust: "Never again."
The need for constant reminders of proper values does not relate only to outside threats, but also to the quality of judgment and decision-making in our daily lives. The display of pictures of Israel's war dead will in this way become the most fitting memorial to their memories, because those who gave their lives in the defense of the country have not only allowed us to live, but through their deaths they have shown that we are responsible for being worthy of their sacrifice.