The unraveling of society

cc: flickr By brizzle born and bred
cc: flickr By brizzle born and bred

The horrific rape in Gan Haair, in central Tel Aviv over the weekend, comes to us on the heels of the gruesome murder in Beersheba, stabbings in Netanya and across the country and senior municipality officials allegedly involved in a sex scandal in Kiryat Malachi. One incident follows another, at a rate that seems to be increasing. Israeli society has suddenly revealed its neglected, dilapidated backyard, and it’s open for all to see. Personal safety is slipping away.

In the face of all this violence, there is a communication breakdown. The language is violent. Reactions are violent. Instead of speaking to one another, people are killing and raping. Dialogue is lost, and with it man’s hope for reaching understanding with his fellow man.

What’s scary about the violence is that it is beginning at such a young age. Gadi Vichman was murdered by a group of teenagers because he asked for quiet and consideration for his sleeping children. We mustn’t assume this can’t happen in our neighborhoods. It could happen in any neighborhood in Israel, and it’s not only related to poverty and social frustrations. We are lacking the ability to listen, to be tolerant, and to open our ears to the distress of the person standing before us. The army can’t be solely to blame for this, nor can the occupation or the social welfare authorities.

What is required is social responsibility on a wider scale than simply blaming one governmental authority or another. We are in the midst of a tumult that doesn’t allow us to listen and hear our brothers — and we are witnesses to where things can deteriorate: murder, stabbings, sexual assault and rape.

It starts at home, with the manner of discourse between a child and his parents. When the parents are powerless against their own child, the result is a child who is powerless against himself and his friends. This dynamic of paralysis leads to unreceptiveness, anger and rage. The lack of ability to speak and communicate leads to using violence as a solution.

I read the newspaper headlines and feel helpless. I ask myself where the boiling point is. What else needs to happen before we wake up? The answer isn’t a simple one. Every moment brings with it a new record for the cruelty running rampant in the streets. But I don’t think the violence is meaningless and can’t receive proper treatment.

These random encounters with violence — one time in a parking garage in Gan Meir in Tel Aviv, the next in a residential neighborhood in Beersheba or the market in Netanya — won’t be solved only by the police, the use of force or imposing the public order. The streets are not a fight club. The streets must be a common place where we can meet one another.

We can, of course, walk around wearing heavy armor, like knights in medieval times, but what would we gain by that? It would only widen the detachment between us. We must bring a new energy to the street, with a shared vision.

The violence spreading among us shows that some of the seams of our society aren’t woven properly and have come undone. Where they have unraveled, we find ourselves in Sodom and Gomorrah. We must mend Israeli society, based on an ethos of dialogue, tolerance and listening. We must give our children hope. We have mouths and ears, so let’s use them.

This article was published on Israel Hayom newspaper, 14.5.2012