In the past weeks Israel has been rocked by a rash of murders – murders of children at the hands of their parents or in one case, the grandfather. These murders are horror stories that we hope are the exception to the rule. But they have triggered an important public debate: To what degree should the state be involved in the relationship between parents and their children? Were the police at fault for not allowing a non-parental complaint to be filed, concerning the disappearance of Rose, one of the murdered children? Should the state now keep track of parents who do not bring their children for medical checkups and vaccinations? Should it investigate the parenting skills of its citizens? What are the limits of authority of the welfare and education systems? Who is responsible for the children? The state? Or the parents?
Everybody seems to agree that the murders were possible because the state didn’t discover that there was a problem in time to solve it. “We must learn from our mistakes,” the officials lament. “[We must] perfect all our state mechanisms, increase surveillance and make our follow-up more efficient so that the next time, the suspicion of the authorities will be raised in time. The mechanisms will solve the problem, and we will not have to face the horror.”
In my opinion, the solution can be found at the very opposite end of the spectrum. The problem is not the state’s lack of responsibility, or its lack of surveillance of Israel’s citizens. Just the opposite! The problem is that the state takes too much responsibility over the lives of its citizens. It has educated/conditioned us to mind our own business and not take responsibility for what is happening around us. The more that a state is centralized and interferes with its citizens’ lives, the more its citizens are estranged from each other and shirk responsibility for their communities – and even for their own children.
Israel’s Mandatory Education Law is a prime example. On the surface, it seems to be a wonderful law. The state sees to it that every child in Israel will receive the education that he needs. And how has this law interfaced with reality? Israel’s children finish 12 years of studies, but place behind Iranian children in their achievement tests. They do not know where they came from or where they are going, the words “Shema Yisrael” are like Chinese to them, and they are clueless about their basic identity.
What has happened? We have become accustomed to the fact that the Education Ministry – and not the parents – is responsible for our children’s education. That is exactly what the Mandatory Education Law says. The truth, however, is that parents could easily arrange a much better education for their children than what the state offers. With proper preparation, they could pay the best teachers very respectable salaries and still come out with change.
Shocked? How can parents shoulder responsibility for their children’s education? Israelis have been conditioned to think that education is the state’s responsibility. If people were not conditioned to automatically place all responsibility on the state, the neighbors of the murdered children might have seen the warning signs that could have prevented these horrors. But the socialist state eliminated the traditional community structure in order to empower the central government. In Israel, the entire state is one large community. In other words, it is one large, centralized regime whereby we all vote directly – for political parties.
In 97 percent of the world’s democracies, the electoral system is district-based and the citizen sends his personal representatives to the parliament. This method decentralizes the regime, develops and empowers the community structure, and restores responsibility to the citizens.
“We will not allow philanthropists to take control of our distress,” Amir Peretz cried when billionaire Arcady Gaydamak erected a tent city to house Israel’s refugees during the Second Lebanon War. This amazing sentence explains the entire situation in a nutshell. A centralized government, by its very nature, gains from our distress. Distress is an asset that keeps the small citizen dependent on Big Brother. In the short (and even the medium) term, the state will solve some problems. But an essential solution will never be produced.
We don’t want any more heartbreaking horror stories. It is time to restore responsibility to the citizens.
(Translated from the article that appeared on Israel’s NRG website.)
Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction inside the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) strives to restore Jewish values, pride and integrity to the State of Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.