Even on this very
special evening, I would like to share with you my greatest concern,
because in the reality in which we live in, it is difficult to separate
between joy and worries, and it is even impossible and even forbidden to
separate the two.
It is also difficult to separate between pride and shame, and we are
proud of many wonderful things which have taken place here in the past
52 years, but pride can blind, and can sometimes make it difficult to
see on the light shining through.
"Israel leads the developed world
in the area of the social gap!"
A week ago the Government of Israel held a special session and
heard from a very reputable researcher about the country's situation -
on the state of our society. According to the statistics - there is no
doubt - the State of Israel leads the developed world in the area of the
is hard to believe and hard to comprehend this, but this is a very clear
and sharp fact, which cuts through the flesh, and is very painful.
How could this happen to us? How have we sunk to this social
low, which is also a moral low? It is also especially hard to
believe, to understand and to explain - that 52 years ago, when we
began, that Israel had more equality than in the West.
And all of a sudden - it is not at all clear when - we have strayed from
the course and have not been able to get back.
The "Light unto the Nations" is now murky, because it has become
murky due to the depth of the gap between rich and poor, between the
strong and the weak. From these depths the little boys and girls
call out to us, and hold out their hand so we can hold them, and not let
"Be mindful of the children of the poor,
because Torah will sprout from them".
Since I became Minister of Education I see these boys and girls
before me, and they see us, and I ask myself if we will be able to
keep seeing each other.
The State of Israel is number one when it comes to the gap, but it is
the last country that can allow itself to have this gap. The
ethnic stitches are still untied, and the wounds are still left open,
and they have not yet been come together - the stiches - and the
wounds have not yet healed, under the conditions of social tension.
In our Israel, the demands made of its citizens are much greater
than any other developed country. Therefore, Israel is, according to the
doctrine of its founders, according to its vision, and according to its
special predicament and according to its demands, must be a more
equitable society than any other one. Israel must be a country of
More than once, we have been tempted to believe that Israeli society is
especially cohesive. When we have, heaven forbid, a tragedy, when
disturbances break out, we all share the concern, and we discover
amongst us beautiful displays of identification and support. But
not only during a tragedy or disturbances is our cohesiveness tested. It
is tested first and foremost in everyday life, and not only when
soldiers are killed in Lebanon, and when katuyshas fall in Kiryat
cohesiveness during unrest is natural, it is expected. But we have among
us hundreds of thousands of men and women, girls and boys, who awaken
every morning in the development towns, in the poor neighborhoods and in
the Arab villages - who awake into the reality of tragedy and unrest.
Anyone who is unemployed and wakes up in the morning - lives a daily
tragedy. Any one who wakes up in the morning under the poverty
line - lives a life of constant upheaval. Any boy or girl who
comes to school with a worn-out shoe or without a book, because mother
or father cannot afford it - is a victim of a great social tragedy.
And there is no cohesiveness and no mutual caring for, because if there
were, we would not have reached this gap, and not have settled for it,
and we would have worked from morning till night to narrow this
mindful of the children of the poor, because Torah will sprout from
them", and this is the biggest threat facing us, more than any other
threat from within us or from outside.
Many people in Israel - too many people, are so not aware of where they
live, because they do not know how other people live, and they need the
State Comptroller's report to realize this. Now we do know, and
from this very real knowledge and this cruel reality - will be born a
will and an ability to change and amend.
I believe that Israeli society has not lost its sense of shame. And from
within this shame there is a great ability to change - I almost said
"change at the last minute", because it is late, nearly midnight.
I believe in Israeli society, because the Jewish people have a tradition
of being responsible for each other and providing mutual help.
I believe in Israeli society, because it is a society that is still
searching for vision, because without vision the people will be torn
apart and be disbanded, and the social cohesiveness is our vision. And
this will happen, and the time is now.
From here on, from this evening on, we shall say to all of the children
of the country - religious and secular, Jews and Arabs - you are our
beloved children, our first commitment is to you.
We will certainly bring you out of the distressed slavery and into the
freedom of well being. You shall be the last generation of social
unrest and the first generation of a correct society, that identifies
with, is involved with and cares for others, in an unselfish way - not
merely for pleasure, and not in an indifferent way.
As someone who belongs to the left-wing in Israel, I say: If we
forsake you, boys and girls, let our left hand lose its cunning.
I believe in a society in which its two pillars are justice and
well-being, and not profit and charity. I believe in an Israeli society
that does not forsake its commitment to raising up the poor.
We, the citizens of Israel, cannot allow ourselves to remain on Mount
Nevo and look across at The Land. We are here in The Land, it is ours,
it is precious to us, we do not look upon it from a distance, we are
building it up and watching over it.
Therefore, after 52 years, we must finally reach the Promised Land , to
the Land that Promises, and the biggest promise of them all is the most
equitable society in the world.
Communicated by Rivka Shraga, Spokeswoman of the Israeli Ministry of
Education, Contact David Baker, Jerusalem: Tel: 972-2-560-3408,
972-2-560-3700. Fax: 972-2-560-3706. E-mail: