Thursday April 17, 2014
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17.04.2014
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Chana Rosenfelder

A moral message to the nation

Israel, we are told, is meant to be a light unto the nations. This term is used in three places in the Prophets to describe the nation of Israel at the time of redemption.

The modern State of Israel has many achievements under its belt. We produce Nobel Prize laureates at a higher rate than almost any other country -- 50 percent more per capita than the U.S. and more than double the Canadian rate. Much medical technology was developed here, in addition to technology for daily use, such as the popular Waze navigation software. Israel created the cherry tomato, the drip irrigation system, and the USB flash drive.

The State of Israel also prides itself on its absorption of millions of immigrants, from all countries and cultures. We are also the only country in the world to take into our borders citizens of a country at which we are legally at war, Syria, in order to provide them with medical treatment.

But is all of that enough?

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, stated: "History did not indulge us with physical strength, spacious land and a large nation. But she has given us an unprecedented moral and intellectual trait which merits and demands of us to be a light unto the nations."

It is our intellectual honesty that we are obligated to strengthen and use, in an unending cycle, to teach the world righteousness and to justify our return to our homeland.

Corruption in politics can be found world-over. It happens in Israel as well. In the recent Beit Shemesh municipal elections, the fraud was organized by ultra-Orthodox groups to guarantee the victory of their ultra-Orthodox candidate. This is a clear example of the enormous gap between the external notion of Jewish traditions and the true, internal Jewish ethics that must lay the foundation for a Jewish state.

On Thursday, the Jerusalem District Court sustained the appeal against the Beit Shemesh election results. The police found sufficient evidence of organized, planned, cheating, to raise the question of who would have won in a fair vote. This decision was not easy.

Only a day after the election results were announced, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar confidently stated that he was distressed by the cheating, but had no doubt that there was not enough deceit as to have affected who won. Saying that, in advance of the police investigation's conclusion, struck the public as an attempt to stay on the good side of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Not a case of the intellectual honesty that Ben-Gurion would have expected.

The judges heard the police, the appellant and the defendants over two weeks ago. Since then, they sat to read the affidavits of people who had come to vote and were told they had already voted; the written testimony of voting station officials who turned away would-be voters who did not know how many children were recorded on what they claimed were their own ID cards; and the evidence of monies paid to people in order to gain their cooperation in a large-scale scam.

Overturning elections runs the risk of setting a precedent for any "sore loser" to file an appeal. But when the ultra-Orthodox community is on the short end of a court decision, it also means taking a chance of days or weeks of violent demonstrations. This weapon of their well-trained community has been used to create separate seating on public buses, stop traffic flow in certain neighborhoods on Shabbat and stop construction in areas where, they claim, old graves may be damaged.

The judges who accepted the appeal of the second candidate and the attorney-general have placed a large burden on the backs of the police. They cannot hide from the pressure of violent groups who use G-d's name for their personal benefit. The judges have sent a message to the nation: The law is the law, and integrity and honesty are more important than any other Jewish values that a group may claim to represent. If all the relevant official bodies can maintain this moral stand, we can do what is necessary to replace corruption with the morality expected of us by our ancient texts and the best of our modern leaders.

Chana Rosenfelder is a wife and mother, remedial teacher, case manager for special-needs children, and community activist.

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