(Illustration) Drinking to remember?

Alcohol in Jewish state

Op-ed: Despite traditional Jewish aversion to alcohol, Israel turning into a nation of drunkards

Last week, 16-year-old Philip Geller was laid to rest, after being murdered by a drunk friend while none of his other (drunk?) friends did anything to help him and let him bleed to death. The other day, a 75-year-old man was hit by a motorist whose blood alcohol level was six times the legal limit, making him the drunkest driver caught here to date. The list of alcohol victims goes on.


In my childhood I heard adults talk about the drunkenness of the gentiles. They used to recount how in the towns, villages and cities in Europe the gentiles get drunk daily, and especially on weekends. And when they got drunk, may God help us.


Once upon a time they used to say that a Jew drinks to remember, while a gentile drinks to forget. It’s not as though Jews only drank water over the years, but the Jews were never drunkards. A Jew would drink a little wine during Kiddush on Shabbat and also during holidays and festivities. Once a year, on Purim, he would allow himself to drink more to boost the sense of joy, and that’s it.


A culture of drinking and intoxication to the point of losing control, violence and murder did not prevail in the historic, traditional Jewish society.


I’ve been working with Israeli youths for some 30 years now and meet high school students, university students and soldiers almost daily. Today, I’m very concerned. I don’t recall ever seeing such a tsunami of alcohol. I arrive at weddings and see young people getting completely drunk even before the Chuppah. There’s even a contest among friends, seeing if they can get the bride and groom drunk before the ceremony.


I see soldiers in the army drinking – if not on base than before getting there and after leaving. I work with university students and see the drinking culture there. It would suffice to go to certain areas across the country on weekends to understand the depth of this crisis.


Enforcement not the answer

However, as is usually the case around here, instead of treating the root of the problem we address the symptoms. Instead of talking about a leisure culture, about creative, moral ways to have fun and about giving life moral and meaningful value, we speak of technical solutions: Give your car keys to a designated driver and boost enforcement.


A normal state would regularize drinking and limit alcohol sales and accessibility. It’s unthinkable that every kiosk here sells alcohol without any supervision or limits. Just like we don’t give people a loaded gun without strict monitoring, we cannot let people hit the road and endanger the lives of others.


It’s a pity that parents think they must not say “no” to their children. It’s a pity that our education, culture and media establishments turn a blind eye and ignore the root of the problem, which is moral, educational and cultural.


Everyone is scared to utter the grim truth. Instead, they produce meaningless anti-drinking campaigns. Instead of saying “Don’t drink!” they say “Don’t drink and drive.” Such campaign attests to a failure to understand reality. The problem has to do with boredom and emptiness, and it will not be resolved through greater enforcement, but rather, by providing more meaning, substance and depth to life.



פרסום ראשון: 06.12.11, 13:05
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