Last week, I bumped into an English gap-year student who was heading towards Burgers Bar on Emek Refaim. He was full of the joys of a year with no exams, not a day’s hard work, no interfering parents and free use of daddy’s credit card. I asked him how his year had been. His initial response was “amazing”, “the best ever” and “so cool”, but as we got talking, it turned out that he wasn’t so happy after all.
His youth movement had chucked him off his programme and was trying to get his yeshiva to throw him out too. “I did nothing wrong,” he said. “All I did was go to Istanbul for a short holiday without telling anyone.” Reluctantly he agreed that he had done wrong and that the movement had a right to be angry, but felt that they were being unfair in trying to get him kicked out of yeshiva. “I’m in the middle of my spiritual discovery,” he said. “If they kick me out now I will be spiritually lost. Who knows where I’ll end up?” In other words, his youth movement would be totally responsible if he ended up leaving the faith altogether.
The more I reflect on Winograd’s conclusions and the reaction that followed, the more I think back to how the country overwhelmingly supported the war. Most of us called for an invasion of Lebanon and we wanted it fast. If Olmert had waited, we would have been up in arms. How could we sit back and be silent when our soldiers had been killed and kidnapped?
When I mentioned this to a friend, he told me that we only supported the war because our leaders created an atmosphere that led us that way. I don’t buy this at all. We always have the ability to think for ourselves and make up our own minds. Throughout the war, I don't recall Kikar Rabin calling for a swift withdrawal or a speedier ground assault. When it comes to tuition fees or municipal taxes we know how to form an independent opinion, but for some reason, last summer, we only heard what our leaders were saying.
Ten months later and Qassam rockets are raining down on Sderot again. 35% of the population has left. Some will never return. Schools are closed and businessmen are wondering whether they made the right decision in being located in Sderot in the first place. What should be done about it? We surely can’t allow the south to be held hostage. If we act should we respond with targeted aerial attacks or a full-blown re-occupation? What will the world say? And if we do respond, what will that do to the Hamas-Fatah civil war and future balance of powers?
If there are two lessons from last summer, it is that the Government should assess the situation & do what it thinks is right and that we must challenge them on everything they tell us.
In dealing with Hamas, the Government should be bold in taking whatever measures it deems appropriate. But moreover, we – the people – should be even bolder in holding our government to account. It’s not good enough to blame the Government again if things go wrong and we were silent.
Only children prefer to blame those around them when things don’t turn out the way they want.