Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Enforce Laws or Get Rid of Them

One of the dilemmas I faced years ago, as a Jerusalem school principal, was the issue of dealing with students who, although being familiar with school policy rules, arbitrarily decided to ignore them. One such rule was not being allowed to wear a hat or a hoodie in class during a lesson. The reason for that particular rule was in order to avoid kids hiding behind a covering which, in the student’s mind, helped to make them more anonymous and less conspicuous.

Some teachers complained about it while others didn’t object at all.  In short, there was a failure of across-the-board rule observance.  When discussed with the staff, some teachers defended students who often complained about having a bad hair day, thus needing the head cover.  Other teachers found the hats disturbing or distracting.  After considering both sides, I merely said, “Either we enforce the rules or we get rid of them, but the one thing I will not permit is having rules which are flagrantly ignored.”  In the end, it was unanimously decided that we demand strict adherence to the rules which had been set up.  Oddly enough, there were no more “bad hair days.”

Although each situation is totally different, rules and laws are established in order to keep order, preserve standards and to protect the whole of society for the better.

That is why there exists a legal process for immigration to the U.S., which includes filling out an application, providing a background check and medical exam as well as issuing an affidavit of financial support in order to ensure your ability to support yourself. Of course, an interview is also part of that process followed by a waiting period of months (in the best-case scenario) or years, not to mention the payment of between $6-8,000 for the entire process.

However, as the southern border remains open, one asks, “Why would anyone choose a process which demands paperwork, thousands of dollars and a significant wait time when illegal immigration promises immediate entrance into the country with no criteria attached – not even a medical exam to check for Covid?”  Sadly, those who would opt to go the legal route must end up feeling like idiots who are definitely not rewarded by doing the right and lawful thing.

And what about residents who go to convenience stores, throughout the country, in order to make purchases as they pull out their wallets to pay for those same items which were on the shelves?  How do they feel as they settle in their armchairs, at night, to watch a news report on TV, showing thugs who enter department stores, grocery markets or even designer shops, filling enormous empty sacks with stolen merchandise which is now not prosecuted so long as the goods are under the $1,000 limit?

Or have you heard that certain banks are giving out housing loans to minorities based on their skin color, loans which others, whose pigment is a bit lighter, would not be entitled to receive?  This, too, is against the law but, nonetheless, being done.  Perhaps you’ve gotten wind of the fact that military personnel who, by law, are permitted to forego vaccinations if they provide a valid religious exemption, have, nonetheless, been terminated from their jobs.  Or it’s possible that you’re more fixated on the rich and famous somehow evading prison time when caught driving drunk or when fraudulently claiming a hate crime?  You might be wondering why the unknown and obscure end up behind bars but the well-connected and uber-privileged never seem to walk past other inmates on the way to their own prison cubicle.

The list is endless of laws which are not being enforced or which are being enforced, on a select few, while others get away scot-free without consequences or punishment.  It is more than infuriating.  It is corrupt, demoralizing and the stuff of injustice as those in power carefully erect a two-tiered system meant to favor whomever they choose while meting out harsh penalties for those who are, somehow, not fortunate enough to be exempt from whatever law “they” decide to enforce.

But I come back to my example of students wearing hats and hoodies, deliberately ignoring what they knew to be school policy.  I reminded teachers, back then, that allowing such a thing to continue would be sending the clear message that students get to choose what goes and what doesn’t, thereby making rules obsolete.  After all, no need to even have a set of bylaws for parents and students to read, before the start of each school year, if nothing will be observed.

The lack of law enforcement is just the beginning of a society which no longer operates with any semblance of order.  It is every individual for themselves leading to anarchy and chaos.  And as the world’s great super power, the United States of America is leading the charge on lack of law enforcement, it won’t be long before other countries follow suit.

In fact, it was shocking to read in Haaretz that “police will no longer be dispatched to every report of a burglary.” (Sept. 12, 2022) Citing a shortage of patrol officers, the new policy will seek to “streamline” law enforcement’s involvement.  Only if the thief is still on the premises will an officer arrive at the scene, but what thief would be stupid enough to hang around as he hears a patrol car siren approaching?

Perhaps the more relevant question is why there is a shortage of law enforcement, leaving the public vulnerable and without adequate protection?  The answer is very likely found in the contempt which has, over the past few years, been displayed for enforcing rules, laws and the respect for authority of those who have tried to keep all of us safe.

As the message is being sent throughout Israeli society that law enforcement is in decline, with fewer wanting to enter that sector of employment, “the number of thefts and break-ins have risen by 11% in just the year 2021 after a decade of gradual decline.” And why shouldn’t they?  If there are no consequences for breaking the law, there will clearly be a greater number of infractions.

That is why laws must be enforced or gotten rid of, because by not enforcing them, the call to the unruly, the dishonest and the greedy will be to get what you can, while you can.  Not only does it give a nod to law breakers, but it makes those of us who value law enforcement feel as if the message by our leaders is that crime does pay!


About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.