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The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Tarfon's mother went for a stroll in her backyard when her shoes came undone. "Rabbi Tarfon walked up to her and placed his hands under her feet, and she walked on his hands all the way to her bed." This is how much he respected the commandment of honoring thy mother and father.

However, it is doubtful if these days the rabbi could emulate the enthusiasm of children of public figures in taking responsibility and even facing charges for criminal actions attributed to their parents.

Meir Amar, the son of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, did the dirty work required to keep his sister's suitor away from her, by force. He was so devoted to the task that he is suspected of being involved in criminal acts. So is the rabbi's wife. The two are now expected to face prosecution, as the police recommend. The chief rabbi, on the other hand, emerged squeaky clean from the investigation - he did not know, did not see and did not hear what was going on in his own home. That's how it is when the family protects its loved one and stands as a buffer between him and the nonsense of this world.

A similar thing happened in Ariel Sharon's family. Sons Gilad and Omri took responsibility for suspicious conduct also attributed to their father. According to their versions, he did not deal with allegedly improper fund-raising for his Likud primaries campaign, nor was he involved in the circular deal intended to reverse this money flow. He was also not involved at all in the ties between his son Gilad and businessman David Appel, which resulted in the son's pocketing huge sums in what was dubbed the Greek island affair.

We are expected to believe that in this closely knit family, with a son living on his father's ranch, there is a complete severance among the members when it comes to deals that the police are investigating. After all, the attorney general ruled that there is insufficient evidence to indict any member of the Sharon family on suspicions regarding the Greek island affair. As for allegations of improper election funding, he ruled that the son Omri is the sole defendant.

What a delightful spectacle: This is indeed an extreme case of honoring parents. The children of public figures stand like a defensive wall to shield their parents from the fear of the law. This seemingly noble behavior meets with no criticism although everyone knows what's happening. As soon as the formal suspicion is removed, the public figures may continue serving in their lofty positions as though nothing happened.

In this, as in other instances, Israeli society accepts the improper conduct of its leaders as long as it is not translated into formal indictments. The public does not impose social sanctions on them and does not exact moral demands of men who appear to be the cause of their sons' entanglement in wrongdoings.

There once was an Israeli prime minister whose wife was caught holding a forbidden account in an overseas bank. He stepped forward and announced his resignation, although the account was on his wife's name and no one attributed the offense to him. Yitzhak Rabin acted in the spirit of Prophet Ezekiel's prophecy: "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son" (Ezekiel 18:20). Israel's incumbent leaders do not appear to be waiting for this prophecy to come true.