Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

The Time Has Come

Ten Commandments, Wikimedia Commons

Now that the review, revision, even reversion, of basic principles in the judiciary has come to the fore of Israel’s political life it would seem to be appropriate to extend the approach to other spheres which till now have held sway and been considered sacrosanct.

The time has come to tackle another set of precepts that has irked policy-makers, and politicians in particular, in recent times. I’m talking about the Ten Commandments, those basic principles which form the bedrock of civilized human society but whose initial attraction seems to have worn off. After all, it’s all well and good in this day and age to obey the commandment to have no other gods or not to make idols. It’s easy enough to understand that those were necessary and valid precepts back then in those far-off times when ancient societies did indeed hold all kinds of strange beliefs about the deities they worshipped, whether in the physical form of effigies or in some inanimate form that varied from time to time.

And who can fail to appreciate the value of having a day of rest, the precept that preceded all labour laws everywhere and which has been adopted – and even extended – all over the world? Who can resist the attraction presented by the long, lazy, two-day weekend of most western societies? Even in Israel, which supposedly adheres to the concept of keeping one day of rest, has allowed the idea of a two-day weekend, or at least a one-and-a-half-day weekend, to impinge on its strict adherence to a single day of rest by giving workers Friday off. After all, having a day of complete rest requires a lot of preparation, so orthodox Jewish women have to pack two days of cooking, baking and housework into one day, while their husbands go off to fish, swim or relax in their local ‘parliament’ with the other husbands. Not to mention the ultra-orthodox in Israel, who don’t work on any day of the week, so that for them to focus on a single day of rest is rather problematic.

Honouring one’s father and mother is something of a tall order in this day and age when parents belong to a generation that is unable to keep up with the heady pace of technical developments. If honouring them means downloading new apps into their mobile phones while muttering something about their inability to understand progress, then that will have to suffice. I’m not sure that all our politicians are even as up-to-date as that, but thankfully they all have secretaries and/or personal assistants to do the donkey work involved in writing emails, Facebook posts and Twitter messages.

But now we come to the tricky part. Not stealing and not bearing false witness, i.e., lying. How can any self-respecting politician hope to get ahead while adhering to those outdated commandments? I suppose their thinking goes along lines of ‘being economical with the truth isn’t exactly lying. Everyone does it. It’s become the norm.’ So, essentially, one can delude oneself, and seek to delude others, by claiming that that particular commandment has outlived its usefulness.

And so we find ourselves facing a situation in which the people who decide our laws and now even control our judiciary – overturning the whole concept of checks and balances – are able to disregard the basic principles of decency with impunity.

One can only hope that the change in our government that is so sorely needed will come sooner rather than later, whether as divine retribution, disintegration from within, or punishment by the electorate.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.
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