Floating Voter / What Exactly Is Jewish About Our State?

Should something not be done to support the fallen and make the crooked straight?

Now, with everyone a lot less sociable and a lot more social-minded, why should something not be done to support the fallen and make the crooked straight? At least the cabinet, which has the keys, could, if it wanted, immediately open the gates of hope and prove that the future is now and not on the far side of March 28. In the short space between Qassam and Hamas, a harbinger of glad tidings and the sound of salvation could be squeezed. But so far only the sound of distress is heard, and the hungry must make do with a rich meal of oily promises.

Not only is there no improvement, things have gotten worse, and if this is the way it looks before the election, then all the more so the day after, when even the promises will be cleared away like empty plates. The big parties are now competing among themselves to see who will set the tone and who will set the agenda. But the agenda of the lower deciles is constant - they always live below the line.

Even those who did not know learned recently that the school lunch program has not gone into operation in most communities. Out of 600,000 poor children, about 100,000 at most are getting lunch at school. And if children are being fed here and there, there is discrimination: One child eats because his or her parents paid, another fasts because his or her parents did not. The latter can only look on with longing at the former. As a former member of the ministerial committee for the investigation of the Shin Bet security service, I never saw a system of torture to match it - an interrogator eating his fill while a detainee looks on in agony, following every mouthful and going out of his mind. If we had at that time received a report of such cruelty, we would have outlawed it. What is not customary in Shin Bet basements in the dark is customary and acceptable in classrooms in broad daylight.

We also heard over the weekend that the budget for assisting Holocaust survivors has run out. Aged and debilitated survivors will have to manage on their own, and they do not have the strength. Go tell my grandmother who was shot into a ditch that the situation of the Sarids in our country, of all places, is worse than in any other proper country. Would she believe it, my grandmother? Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert and Limor Livnat seem to be saying to themselves and to the whole world that the main thing is not to be at all ashamed.

This country is defined as a "Jewish state," and to further embellish the phrase, the words "and democratic" are added. What exactly is Jewish about our state? The famous Jewish mind? The acclaimed Jewish heart? There are other countries more Jewish than the Jewish state. A country that feeds all its children without exception and supports them without discrimination is a more Jewish country in my mind.

The High Court of Justice last week looked straight into the hungry eyes of children in the shadows and was not persuaded. Aharon Barak giveth "judiciary activism" and Aharon Barak taketh it away, blessed be the name of Aharon Barak.

MK and former minister Yossi Sarid retired from politics about two weeks ago. He will be writing a column for Haaretz ahead of the upcoming elections.