Six Messes Israel Should Clean Up for Passover

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Just what you need to scrub the house for Passover. Credit: Dreamstime.com

How do you know Passover is approaching in Israel?

All you have to do is take a look at the supermarket. Forget about food: The entire front section of the store is covered with cleaning products. That’s because Passover, supposedly the holiday of freedom, is actually a slavishly clean freak’s paradise. It’s not enough to merely rid our homes of all traces of leavened bread crumbs, but in a show of obsessive-compulsive disorder, we try to outdo each other in getting everything organized and sparkling.

There is also much talk by rabbis of decluttering and scrubbing ourselves, as well. A “cleansing of the soul” if you will, so we can - in an ideal world - sit around the Passover table calm, clean and serene. While things are never spotlessly serene in the Middle East and the large unresolved issues (the Palestinian question, Iran, ISIS) seem un-clean-up-able, there are definitely grimy elements of Israeli public life at the moment that would benefit from as vigorous a scrubbing as we can manage. Here’s some of the grime that really needs to be wiped away and tossed out as we prepare for the holiday so we can start fresh:

1. Those dirty, dirty politicians

Happily, right on the eve of Passover, a major step was taken in the direction of ridding ourselves of corruption on Sunday, when former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of taking envelopes stuffed with money from a political supporter, capping a long, nasty legal saga that has left the nation queasy about the behavior of the man who once held the most powerful post in the land. That’s the good news. The bad news: Olmert is just one in a long line of corrupt officials in his generation and older, some of whom have not yet had their Pandora’s Box of payoffs opened. Also, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to put Shas’s Arye Dery right back in the job where he was convicted of wrongdoing, the Interior Ministry, doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence. Hopefully, though, younger politicians will look at Olmert and Dery and others who have been caught, and when faced with easy, sleazy money, decide that it’s just not worth it – leaving us with less to clean up in the future.

2. The horrifying mess made of the U.S.-Israel relationship

It doesn’t matter what your position is on the danger of a nuclear deal with Iran, or who you blame. If you believe the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is key to Israel’s security, the nasty personal cold war between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama is downright frightening. That precious strategic relationship has to stop being kicked around like a political football – we can’t afford to sit around till 2016 praying for a GOP victory, which wouldn’t save us, either. The wounds, somehow, have to start healing.

3. The post-election stain of racism

In an ideal world, Passover clean-up would include electronically wiping the video of Benjamin Netanyahu's warning against the “droves of Arabs” voting in the recent election off of every computer and database. The same goes for Amir Hetsroni’s toxic suggestion that it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if Moroccan Jews had been “left to rot” in their native land rather than populate Israel, and writer Yair Garbuz’s slurs as well. Unfortunately, there is no cleaning product strong enough to remove the scars left by the nastiness on display during the political slugfest. We can only spread enough sweet-smelling goodwill in the future to mask the stink of prejudice.

4. The ugly neglect of the children of the strangers in our midst

No matter how hard we try to pretend they don’t exist, they do. Jews once wandered the desert and the world in search of a home. We can argue about our level of obligation and treatment of the adult Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who have made their way here, but we have to take responsibility for the lives of innocent children in our midst. In recent weeks, five babies have died in crowded, overflowing understaffed day care centers where children are warehoused as their parents work long hours, often as illegal laborers. No matter what one thinks the correct political solution is for their parents, these helpless babies simply can’t pay the price for our dysfunctional policies - the government has to step in and make order.

5. Unsightly sexual harassment

One would have hoped the rape conviction of President Moshe Katsav would have dealt a final death blow to the phenomenon of public servants who thought they could treat their female underlings as a private harem. Unfortunately, a widespread scandal in the police force proved otherwise - and the IDF hasn’t been doing too well, either. I guess fighting sexual harassment is like any clean-up job: it’s never quite over. One has to stay diligent and keep on washing when necessary.

6. The mire of our own hopelessness

Looking around at all that should be done to even begin putting Israel in order gives me the same sinking feeling in my stomach as when I look at my disordered closet and dirty refrigerator before Passover. I don’t know where to start and get the urge to just give up.

But even though nothing will match the perfectly sparkling clean home - or Jewish national home - of my fantasies, without a real, ongoing effort, we’ll all soon end up neck-deep in the muck. Time to grab a mop.  

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