So Polite, So Politically Correct

On its 61st birthday the Knesset adopted a lovely new custom. Since it has lost its metaphoric shine, why not bring in children to restore it?

It's often said that children steal the show - "Children Address the Knesset," the Knesset television channel, 99, called it. But the show in the plenum yesterday was not stolen: It was the same show with a different cast. There was no need to adjust the microphone to suit their stature, it fit precisely: That of the young guests was exactly the same as that of their much older hosts.

If we are to judge their short speeches by their content, these fledgling politicians are full-fledged statesmen. They were gathered up from the big cities and from the small towns, secular and religious, new immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia, their speeches wrapped and packed like the sandwiches made by Mom and Dad that they take to school.

Some of the speakers spoke from the heart, but the heart did not really roar, it only rustled. They were so polite and reserved, so politically correct, that it is hard to tell whether this was all they had to say, or that this is what they had been advised to say. Were the routine thoughts and language the fruit of self-censorship or censorship from somewhere else?

There were moments when one could see, behind the children's backs, their teachers and parents bending over them, correcting and ruining the text, adding and removing making them worse - and the principal, and the guidance counselor going over the texts to make sure they won't shame the institution and their office. And this is what you get: Either the heart is not revealed or this is the heart, and that's all there is to it.

When they spoke of orders that must be obeyed, it is a pity that no one asked about the order to use white phosphorus. The occupation was absent, even as an example; Israeli democracy forgot about it entirely on its holiday. The income gap between rich and poor in Israel, unequaled in the developed world, was nowhere to be found. Education also made it through the celebrations in peace - as if from the perspective of the bottom rung it's impossible to see who is rising and who falling on the international achievement ladder.

One or two students did dare to march to a different drummer but even they tread carefully, as if loath to wake anyone up: Everyone opposed drugs and alcohol, pornography and violence; everyone supported values, national unity and contributing to society.