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Instead of taking the bull by the horns, the government prefers to grab at its tail. Instead of discussing the new findings of research conducted by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, the cabinet dealt with raising the drinking age. The study published yesterday once again showed that Israeli children have inferior educational achievement in comparison with their peers in all other Western nations.

Alcohol consumption figures are truly scary. The World Health Organization reports Israel is second in the percentage of 11-year-old children who get drunk, and in the 15-to-17 age range, over 50 percent drink, a real tragedy.

Only a few years ago, we still were proud of our society and our children in particular, who did not look at a drink. This country was until not long ago free of drunks, and it was impossible to find a drunkard in the streets rolling in his vomit.

But the plague of drunkenness is not the result of shops staying open late at night, and not because they offer bottles to anyone and everyone at any hour. There are deeper causes for the change. But the cabinet finds it much easier to deal with the exposed branches than the deep roots.

The use of dangerous drugs, soft or hard, is completely and totally illegal. Has drug use gone down in recent years? Actually, it has increased enormously. Cigarette advertising has been banned for a long time, all sorts of restrictions have been placed on smoking, warnings are plastered over every pack and children are not allowed to buy tobacco products. Is there less smoking today?

The cabinet would have been better off if, instead of discussing how to lock the barn doors after the wild horses managed to escape, it debated what they are running away from, these young Israelis, and why are they running away from us. It would have been better for the cabinet to have discussed, if only it had asked for an answer - what happened to the acclaimed Israeli sabra, who has suddenly turned into a vulgar and violent person with glassy eyes.