Perhaps Gilad Is One of His Own Victims

The legend of unparalleled investment in the education of our children has long since been smashed.

The heady scent of positive change is in the air in spring; because the fall has already passed. It has often been said that Israeli citizens aren't compensated as they deserve to be; that there's nothing fair and logical between what the state demands and what it grants. Israel has long since not been a leader among the group of welfare states; it's lagging behind. The payments and allotments to the unemployed, the poor, elderly and children, are comparatively lower than their colleagues in most developed countries. More than there is prosperity for most here, there are profits for a few; and more than there is "just division," there is charity in the old-fashioned style of "handouts."

It's an upside-down world. After all, the citizens deserve more in Israel, because they pay particularly high taxes (although not the highest); because here a young man must enlist in the army and serve at least three years; because it is not easy to live here in a constant reality of tension and anxiety; because this place requires an unusual amount of solidarity and egalitarianism, which are the most important elements in the makeup of "national security," but are far from us and continue to be in the distance.

For young people, things are particularly difficult here when they are forced to combine higher education with working for their livelihood, serving endless reserve duty, and starting a family. And what are they offered in return: the finger. Our students, "our future," pay higher university tuition than any comparable European institution when it should be the exact opposite. The legend of unparalleled investment in the education of our children has long since been smashed. The latest report of the organization of developed countries (OECD) says that Israel invests much less in its pupils than other countries. The annual investment in kindergarten children in Britain, for example, is $8,425, while here it is only $3,363. Investment per elementary school child in the U.S. is $8,094 a year, and in Israel $4,770. The situation is even worse by the time pupils reach high school. Many professors and economists are asked to apologize for the invention they disseminated, knowingly or not, about Israel investing more and getting less, sowing with generosity and reaping with tears.

All this is going to change and be different from now on; and as in many cases, the standard bearer will be the defense establishment. After 58 years of statehood, the establishment finally sees a connection between the difficulty of life in Israel and the welfare of its citizenry; finally they are fixing the distortion, making a connection between the high demands and low compensation. The nation of Israel is returning to the sources and adopting the positions of our wise forefathers, as expressed in the Talmud's tractate on fathers: payment according to sorrow.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who now serves as the head of the political-security department in the Defense Ministry, deserves a commendation. He's the man who dared set off like a pioneer ahead of the exhausted and fatigued and those with frayed nerves and those losing weight, those whose bodies failed them and those whose souls failed them because of the pressured, depressing conditions of their lives. He is seeing retribution for their misery and compensation for their rights. It was regrettable to read about his health in the newspaper, but it was encouraging to find out that he was finally recognized as handicapped, after a long legal struggle.

Now there is no longer any doubt that the gates of hope have been opened to simple soldiers who never made it as generals, all those who served in Lebanon and are still serving in the territories while they are in "a state of tension and anger," and their service is characterized by "an intensive, sleepless lifestyle, with shifts that can go on for 39 hours, irregular dining, and wake-up calls almost every night"; hope for those young officers who are forced "to make fateful decisions of an officer at the rank of general and suffering anxiety and enormous emotional pressure, walking around sweating profusely and physically exhausted"; those who make their opinions heard "with intensity and stormy emotion, but nobody pays attention, and that causes them great frustration and tension." (All quotes are from Gilad's statements to the court - Y.S.).

Not only military people will benefit from the fruit of "Operation Amos." From now on, doctors will be recognized for their handicaps, as they work around their patients and clocks and fall from their feet in fatigue, as well as interns who in the middle of the night have to make decisions required of a department chief; and the teachers in their overcrowded classrooms, trying with their last bit of strength to teach 40 pupils in a classroom and fill in for an absent-present education minister. The unemployed and poor will be compensated for the sorrow the state has caused them, the exhausted elderly for their shame, the children for their faults, and university students for their weighty sorrow all will be compensated. The state should know that it will no longer be able to torment its citizens without paying for that torment in real terms.

Who in Israel does not live under stress and anxiety, which makes sweat both hot and cold break out? According to the Gilad precedent, the people are nothing more than a nation of chronically handicapped people whose degree of handicap must be established by a professional committee. And all that's left to do is wonder: Will those harmed by Amos Gilad, will those who were traumatized by the horrific threats he warned us about over the past decade also be compensated? Gilad was at least promoted, while they, the people he threatened, ended up with a fever. Or maybe Amos Gilad frightened himself so that he must also be added to his list of victims.