At a time when we are all focused on the question of whether Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actions have crossed into the criminal, as Israel’s Attorney General claims, or whether all is legally aboveboard, as Netanyahu and the Likud party insist, we are overlooking an important discussion about the cultural and leadership roots that are being exposed here, roots that are deeply soaked in our leadership’s lack of humility.
Mandelblit’s announcement described a number of actions which are indisputable facts. Accepting champagne, luxury cigars and numerous pieces of jewelry, worth NIS 707,147 from two wealthy capitalists, while allegedly protecting their interests; Trying over and over, hundreds of times, to tilt reports and news coverage so they benefit him and tarnish his adversaries’ names, both on the political right and left, by allegedly using the economic and legislative influences inherent to his position.
These actions, whether they are indeed criminal or not, point to a deep-set problem. An endless lust after money and power, extreme materialism and hedonism, basing crony capitalism on “give and take” and lastly destroying the public’s trust in the legal system to survive politically. At the root of these lies a cultural issue based on a leadership that lacks humility. This issue has nothing to do with political views and many Israeli leaders are infected by it, though Netanyahu is quite an extreme example of this.
Humility entails suppression of the ego during decision making and thought processes, while giving little thought to material gain and much to spirituality. Humble leadership is not powerlessness or a lack of confidence. Humble leadership comes from a place of strength. It is leadership in the style of Hillel, who was president of the Sanhedrin, and of whom it was said “A man should always be humble as Hillel,” and of the legacy he left behind when it was decided by the Talmud that Jewish Law (Halacha) would go by the words of Beit Hillel “Because they were humble and forbearing”- they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai, and from time to time admit to their mistakes and then rule according to Beit Shammai.
A leader acting from a place of humility is capable of understanding that at times they are wrong, can acknowledge the worth of others, does not live a life of extreme hedonism and materialism, and uses the power given to them with awe, as a mission handled with caution.
Conversely, when there is no humility, leadership is conducted through the inner conviction that the best thing for the public is myself, therefore all methods are valid to remain in power; when there is no humility, I do not see my rival or even my partner as people with feelings and rights, but as a worm or through the perspective of what damage they can do to me, therefore I can defame or elevate them according to my interests at any given moment; when there is no humility, we try to live a hedonistic life so as to forget the spirit is being suffocated by the material.
In a time in which both the prime minister of Israel and the president of the United States are characterized by their hubris, materialism and arrogance, we must work towards growing a leadership that has, at its core, modesty, spirituality and humility. In the framework of my job at Kolot I get to meet many leaders that choose to act through these core values. I hope that the nation’s political leadership that emerges in the coming years will be the same, and that we will not find ourselves in a couple of years with the same problems and a different prime minister.
Translated from Hebrew by Amalya L. Grodzinsky