We Thank You, Dear Leader

We naively believed that public money is allocated because it is deserved, according to egalitarian and transparent criteria, and that there is no need to plead and flatter. The situation has changed.

Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver has recommended that Ethiopian immigrants say thank you to the government. We can only guess for what: Thank you for taking us out of the jungle to a villa; thank you in the name of our children who study in ghettos; thank you to the neighbors who can't stand the smell; thank you to the nightclubs that make us stay outside when we're on leave from the army; thank you to the Health Ministry for destroying our blood donations; thank you to the rabbis who force us to undergo a giyur lechumra (conversions done in cases where doubt exists ).

This week we came across another expression of thanks. The Council of Youth Movements published an advertisement: "Thank you! We congratulate the prime minister and the education minister for increasing our support during their term..."

There is a new custom in the country - no more ingratitude toward our benefactors. Who deserves thanks and congratulations? The government and the kingdom. We thank you, Big Brother and Dear Leader. After all, we know that rulers bring the money from home - if they so desire, they are generous; if they so desire, they are tightfisted. And the subjects benefit from their goodness, because they live and operate thanks to loving kindness and not by right.

We naively believed that public money is allocated because it is deserved, according to egalitarian and transparent criteria, and that there is no need to plead and flatter. The situation has changed. More than the country having an obligation to its people, the citizens now have an obligation to the country, and they should say thank you nicely. And if it has graced us with several millions from its budget, we will not stint on several thousand shekels for an ad. And it was actually the youth movements that saw fit to bequeath to their members the new culture of gift-giving. Did they receive an "increase" because of their beautiful and pleading eyes, or because of their welcome activity that is deserving of support?

There are also parents who believe that they deserve a constant thank you from their children, because they got into bed and brought them into the world. That is why they are permitted to treat their offspring as their property. And there are employers who behave like benefactors, because the workers are their possessions.

And it is no longer clear who is working for whom - is our mother government working for us or are we working for her, and who should thank whom: "That is why we will work, that is why we will always work hard, on all the weekdays, the burden is heavy, the burden is pleasant! And during our free time we will sing aloud songs of thanks, songs of blessing" (words - the Prime Minister's Office; melody - a folk tune ).

This week, an anonymous woman died in Jerusalem. She was a teacher, and for 60 years she lived in the Katamon neighborhood, in a rent-controlled housing project. Those coming to console the family in the deceased's apartment were amazed: a full and rich life lived among popularly-priced furniture from the 1950s.

When relatives called her, she had no time for small talk. She was busy preparing a lesson plan, as though it was her last day in the classroom. Sometimes she phoned on her own initiative, in order to express anger: Did you hear, as she did, the chutzpah of the immigrant absorption minister or one of her colleagues? Did you also just see an Ethiopian child who goes to bed hungry? I think that in recent years, she felt like a stranger in her own country.

Once she had good connections in the Education Ministry, when her father was the director general and her brother the minister. But she didn't want to advance anywhere. For her, educating children in fourth or fifth grade was the height of advancement. Give them to me when they're young, she said, before they're too old to be molded.

In the name of my sister, Hadassah Avtalion, I would also hereby like to give thanks: Thank you, dear country, for everything you gave her; for granting her the privilege of teaching for 45 years, and making her feel like a volunteer; for being so kind as to give her a pension of NIS 3,400 a month.

And thank you to our leaders, who managed to infuriate her to her dying day with their inarticulateness, with their false promises, and with their extravagant lifestyle. They are ruining my children, she said angrily. And that's how the fire burned within her, even when she was fading away.