In a Good Land Where Bad Men Have Ruled

There once was a popular saying “the truth hurts”. And indeed, the truth does hurt for us in Israel.

We are a nation based on laws since we obtained independence from British rule in 1948.

We have prided ourselves but we also feel shame because of some bad leaders who have violated our laws.

A president in prison for rape. A prime minister in prison for bribery and fraud. A minister of the interior who resigned in disgrace over sexual harassment accusations. Military high officers who have voluntarily submitted resignations or were forced to resign, almost always for sexual harassment.

It is a sad chapter in our proud national history. Men, important leaders, high government officials, most married, unable to control their passions or sexual desires while holding important positions.

Consensual sex between adults is not a matter of our concern. Unwanted sexual advances and forced rape, on the contrary, are grave matters of national concern.

With the resignation of Silvan Shalom, the office of the Minister of the Interior has been vacant. Now there is a rumor that Prime Minister Netanyahu will offer the important post to an ex-convict, Aryeh Deri of the Shas party, who has been “rehabilitated” since his release from prison.

Are we so lacking in good leadership, men or women free and clear of scandal and disgrace, that criminals or ex-criminals need to be appointed to major political positions?

Are we so lacking in supportive votes that our Prime Minister needs to make Deri’s appointment as a “bribe” for Shas’s votes in the coalition?

What has become of the idealism we once had? What happened to the dreams of our first halutzim?

We wanted to build a Jewish state based upon Jewish ethics and morality. A nation inspired by Torah laws but not governed by them against the will of the 82% of our Jewish population which is not Orthodox.

Where are the great moral teachers, the spiritual giants of yesterday like HaRav Abraham Isaac Kook, HaRav Yehuda Halevi Herzog, HaRav Shlomo Goren, HaRav Yosef Ovadia, HaRav Benzion Uziel, HaRav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron? Great rabbis. Loving all their fellow Jews. Upholding Torah laws humanely and without political pandering.

Why did we accept the spiritual authority of a disgraced former chief rabbi? There are giants among us today, both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Why do we accept men of lower caliber to lead and to guide us?

We are living today in a good land where bad men have ruled without humane concerns for those whom they are elected or appointed to serve. Hunger has not been eliminated from our land of plenty. Poverty has not been eradicated. Our doctors, nurses and hospital personnel occasionally go on strike for higher wages, something totally unheard of in western countries.

The coalition system of government since 1948 has been a devastating one. Too many political parties. Too many hungry appetites for Cabinet or Knesset seats. Too much concern for personal gain, influence, and popular image rather than concern for the general public.

The shame of it is that we vote for political parties, rather than for political representatives. In countries such as the United States, any citizen can contact his representative in the Congress to address a personal problem and to elicit help. In Israel, we have no personal representatives to whom we can turn for solutions.

I once complained of it to a former friend, a well known long-time member of the Knesset. His reply, meant to be a joke, stunned me. “When someone has a problem and is in need of help, he can always turn to God”.

I doubt that God can feed the hungry, enrich the impoverished or find work for the unemployed.

We need a nation of honest, un-corruptible leaders, men and women with hearts big enough to hear the cries of the people, to extend a warm hand, a cordial smile, a reply indicating that every effort will be made to alleviate the problems.

Israel is a good land, a country to be very proud of. In spite of a few bad apples, we have honest and fair judges, humane and compassionate courts of justice. We have fine universities and great scholars. We have one of the most literary nations with more books published and devoured by eager readers. We are a nation of thinkers, dreamers, idealists, philosophers, scientists, medical geniuses, and a nation of citizens who care about one another. Each one responsible for the well-being of his neighbor. In short, we are a proud Jewish state dedicated to the principles of law and justice and devoted to the rights of man. We are a small country in size but extremely large in virtue.

In a land where criminals once reigned, we need the reign of tzaddikim, of honest and righteous leaders.

Perhaps in this new year 2016 we will find them.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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