Two new advertising campaigns have been launched in recent days. The messages they wish to convey are proof that we are living in an era of privatization — not of national enterprises, but rather of national values. The National Road Safety Authority’s campaign features a kid standing at the crosswalk holding a handwritten sign: “Dad, stop the car, I want to cross the road” and an elderly man on the sidewalk whose sign says: “Yael, dear, will you please stop?” We are told: “Just imagine that these are your family members.”
Excuse me, but if the kid is not our own personal child, then we shouldn’t care? I am not sure that appealing to our emotions about family members is a healthy approach. The PR campaign is hinting that as a society, we do not have any shared values just an egoistic caring for those closest to us. Man is a wolf to man – unless of course he is part of my closest circle of family members. And if the kid wanting to cross the road is my neighbor’s, or my enemy’s, or an Arab kid or a foreign worker’s kid, then what? Is there no longer any other way to shock us into behaving properly while we drive?
Plastered right next to these posters, are another set telling us: “Exclusively Family, Exclusively Kahlon” with a huge picture of the Finance Minister. Kahlon is part of the government. In the coalition, there is no such thing as exclusivity and net earnings, there are only gross earnings. It is impossible to run a personal election campaign based on a financial plan during the life of the coalition and take all the credit for yourself. In theory it is possible, it’s only a question of where it would lead to? Bennet would run a similar campaign when the number of students eligible for a bagrut certificate increases and Lieberman would run a poster campaign praising himself whenever a terrorist is murdered?
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has decided that shortening school vacation days is “of the highest priority.” A Google search shows that all his predecessors also made the same promises and tried to make changes, however the bottom line is that the two-month long summer vacation has arrived, and once again it is far too long. 700,000 high-schoolers went on vacation this week and at the end of June, an additional 1.5 million elementary and nursery school students will join them. “Mom, I am soooooo bored” will be the most oft-repeated sentence parents are going to hear over the next two months. However, the real danger lies with the kids who are too old to complain to their parents when they are bored.
The parasha of Korah relates the bitter quarrel between Korah and his cohorts who rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The basis for their uprising was about honor and tasks they felt they were deserving of, and which ended in their tragic deaths. What caused Korah to fan the flames of rebellion among the Children of Israel and why did he choose this particular timing? It’s all a question of boredom. In the previous parasha we read that because of the Sin of the Spies who did not want to enter the Land of Israel, God decreed that the Jews would be punished by wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. A kind of endless summer vacation in which they would hang about and wander for forty years. Such a situation easily leads to acts of stupidity and arguments. Korah simply seized the opportunity.
Rabbi Ben Zion Firer writes about boredom: “This is the danger of having nothing to do. After the Sin of the Spies, they had no worries, and had plenty of time on their hands. When this happens, people look for something to do and if they can’t find anything, then they start arguing.”
The commanders of police stations held a preparatory planning session this week in advance of the summer vacation. They are under no illusions that in the coming months thousands of criminal files will be opened for vandalism, drunken behavior and violent acts. They can only hope that these will be the worst offences and no loss of life will be involved. The same dangers lurking among the Jews in the wilderness is what awaits the youngsters on the beaches and promenades, in parks, and in nightclubs of Israel 2017 – the danger of having nothing to do.
However, it needn’t be so. Israel has already had to deal with far more complex threats. Who will be the first to abolish the expression “July-August” with all its negative connotations and leave us with two innocent words – July and August?
One of the most depressing headlines in our generation is “The Shabbat Wars” used to describe the struggle for the character of the seventh day of the week in the Jewish state. How can we possibly fight over a gift? Why does the Jewish People have to fight about such a necessary and revolutionary concept? How come that the Shabbat has been reduced to the level of a coalition crisis brought on by the Haredi political parties?
It wasn’t always like this. The COL website did some researching into archives and found this gem. “A Declaration of the Hebrew Authors in Support of Shabbat.” In 1931, the whole country was in uproar because of the intent to hold soccer games on Shabbat. The intelligentsia of the day signed an emotional declaration, drawn up by the leading writers, poets, and intellectuals – not by the Council of Torah Sages.
“We view with great concern the breach caused by the permission granted to the Sports and Athletics Association to hold games and competitions on Shabbat and Festivals. This public desecration of the Shabbat in these large gatherings is a demonstration of a disregard for the sanctity of Shabbat and our nation’s heritage. We are in danger of losing the character of the Shabbat as the day of rest, the special day for which generations of Jews were prepared to pay for with their lives to protect.”
The declaration was signed by Haim Nahman Bialik, S.Y. Agnon, David Yellin, Herman Shtruck, Hugo Bergman, Jacob Fichman, Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky and other important literary figures who are now known mainly as street names. It continues:
“It is these days of holiness that granted our people the neshama yeteira (lit. the extra soul), the spiritual dimension that was felt throughout the week. Shabbat gave the Jews the strength and courage to have pride in their Judaism and to be prepared to give their lives for it. The holiness of Shabbat may not be pushed aside for any purpose or vocation, in the same way that it was never rejected during our fight for survival throughout the generations wherever Jews lived. There can be no Jewish people or Jewish nation or National Homeland for the Jews without the Shabbat. Shabbat is a wonderful entity, a Divine creation which cannot be changed in any way or form. In any generation that the Jewish people observe the Shabbat, no nation or language can rule over its soul.”
The artistic and cultural elite of the time were very different from our elite. We can only imagine what they would have had to say about malls, public transport and kiosks that are open on Shabbat. The declaration ends with a plea to the Sports Association, the players themselves and also to the spectators asking them to move all the competitions to another day of the week. “In these difficult times, we are asking you to preserve the sanctity of the Shabbat, the honor of the Land, the unity of the nation and the feelings of brotherhood.”