Are we witnessing the disintegration of Israel? Or, if you would like to put it another way, is Israel losing its mind?
There is no doubt these are unsettling, irritating questions which ignite a burning desire to look up reasons to be optimistic, a reason to say:come on, you're blowing it out of proportion.
We can always repeat the old mantras about the Israeli miracle and praise the founding fathers who gave us a state to be proud of, with a GDP per capita that is higher than most other countries on the globe. Counting the magnificent achievements of Israeli brainpower and technology that conquered the world could never be redundant, whether it is drip irrigation or Waze.
And it is all true, it is all true! In comparison to what is happening around us, we are living in paradise, or at least in a villa in the jungle. We have learned to live in our bubble, to overlook tens of thousands of missiles pointed at our heads, to live along with the knives. We don't make a fuss out of every terror attack like those whiny French.
But, after all the reinforcements, after turning down the volume every evening at eight o'clock so we don't get pissed off hearing the news, after repressing the siren sounds of the last war, which seems now like a strange midsummer night's dream, after bypassing the despair of the young protesters who took to the streets, after basking in the surprisingly caressing sun of December, after all that milk and honey, in a moment of weakness, a troubling doubt furtively rises. What is happening to us? Are we really disintegrating? Have we lost our minds? What is that lump we feel in our throats?
When those images from the "blood wedding" force us to look straight at the screen, the same way we are drawn to peek at an infected wound, or when we look, embarrassed, at the walk of shame of powerful and out-of-control politicians and executives hauled into interrogation rooms, or when we hear that the prime minister's lawyer held a secret meeting with his former lawyer and they both get tangled up in the different versions of the story, or when we see how the process of electing the attorney general is put to ridicule, or when we understand that even the appointment of the head of the secret service, Mossad, is followed by this unhealthy whisper – even then we wake up just for a moment and ask: Maybe we are not well. Maybe we came down with an illness. Maybe we lost our minds.
The international rankings are not the cause of this distress. Indices and rankings could be fixed. Israel has been deteriorating for years now compared with the rest of the world. Since we joined the OECD with the enthusiastic encouragement of Yuval Steinitz, a glum truth was revealed about our poor ranking in the developed world. We are lagging behind in technological advancement, global competitiveness and freedom of the press indices, and we star in the negative side of the social disparity, education and corruption indices. But all of these are fixable, even if not in one day or even one year.
Indices can be fixed; a national illness is harder to cure. We are sick with a disease whose main symptom is destabilization of the rational and moral grounds on which the Israeli democracy was established, and has brought us so far. So why are we staying silent in the face of this national illness and its symptoms?
The most amazing thing in Israel on the eve of 2016 is the national silence. Ministers, members of the parliament from the opposition and the coalition government, officials in the finance and defense ministries, prominent CEO's and business leaders, they are all whispering, not saying any thing in public, about a country that has gone off the rail, about a government that lost its way, about a deranged leadership. They are all experiencing deep anxiety, but in front of the cameras and the microphones they choose the right to stay silent. They won't blow the whistle.
I want to be optimistic and wish you a better year, a saner year in 2016, but the truth is that only if people will start talking clearly and out loud about what is happening here, we will have a real chance for a national recovery. If you chose silence, this country will keep on losing its mind. It is time you tell the public what you say behind closed doors.
Yoel Esteron is the founder and publisher of Calcalist. This text was delivered as a speech at Calcalist's 2016 Forecast Conference on Wednesday.