Israel's Ideal Government - ?

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 8-14
Group Size: 10-50
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal
Discuss the advantages of Democracy, Monarchy, and other governments. Which is ideal? Why is Israel a Democracy?

Required Props & Materials
Nerf Ball

Resource Contents

Camp Stone

Moshevet Moreshet Avot

Snif #2

Noseh: Israels Ideal Government

Written By: Josh Skarf

Materials: Nerf Ball

Goals: Discuss the advantages of Democracy, Monarchy, and other governments. Which is ideal? Why is Israel a Democracy?

Background:

In 1948 the state of Israel was declared as a Parliamentary Democracy. Citizens vote for a single political partys list, and based on the total number of votes the 120 seats in the Keneset are divided among the parties. The party with the plurality of seats is invited by the president to form a government, and the head of that party becomes the Prime Minister. In order to form a government a party must have 61 Keneset members allied with them. This is done by assembling a coalition. (Theoretically it is possible for one party to attain a majority on their own, but this has never happened. In the Seventh Keneset the Maarach had 57 seats, the closest to an outright majority that has ever been attained.)

There was not much debate as to the democratic nature of the state. Although some would have preferred aligning with the Soviet bloc, this was not seriously considered. The World Zionist Organization had for years operated on a parliamentary Democratic system. Democracy was at the time, and still today, seen as the most advanced type of government in existence. (It is important to note that there are many different nuances of Democracies, and in general Israel has a weaker and less stable type than the United States.) For the purpose of this snif, we will keep things simple and limit the significant characteristics of a Democracy to being in the control of the people through regular elections and some form of responsibility to the people by those in power.

Today we often hear how wonderful Israels Democracy is, how it is the only Democracy in the Middle East, etc. However, this is not the form of government prescribed by the Torah and Halakha. Ancient Jewish society was, like most ancient societies, a divine monarchy there was a king who ruled by divine right (God wanted him to.) Once again, this is not so simple, and the monarchy was also balanced by Neviim and later by the Sanhedrin. But we will also try and keep the concept of a monarchy simple, to one person ruling by himself, with little outside input of accountability.

One game has a single person doing whatever he wants to the ruin of everyone, and one shows a single leader as a positive.

Game 1: Chair-Ball Confusion[1]

Have the group sit in a circle, either in chairs or on the floor. Someone is picked to sit in the middle, preferably on a chair, but can be on his knees or on the ground. Members sitting in the outer circle throw a nerf ball across the circle randomly. The ball should be thrown around the circle until the person in the middle is confused.

Suddenly, any player in the circle throws the ball at the chair. The job of the person in the middle is to defend the chair, not allowing the ball to hit any part of it. (If there is no chair, then instead of trying to hit the chair, the players must try and hit the middle person on the back.) If s/he succeeds in the defense, s/he remains in the middle. If the shot hits the target, the player who threw it goes to the middle. Things should move along as quickly as possible.

Game 2: Pirates Treasure

Pick 8 chanichim for the first round, divided into two teams. One person on each team is a seeker. He is blindfolded. A second person is the commander. He faces away from the playing field so that he cannot see where the seeker is walking. The final two players are the directors. They stand facing the commander, so that they can see the seeker. They are not allowed to talk. Two treasures are placed in the playing area. The blindfolded seeker is told where to go to retrieve the treasure by the commander. However, the commander cant see, so he must rely on the directors (who cant talk) to figure out what commands to give. For example, if the seeker has to go left to reach the treasure, the directors will see this and point left. The commander will then announce, Go left. The seeker then follows orders and goes left. Whoever successfully retrieves the treasure first wins.

Play a few rounds, switching roles and teams. If you have 12 chanichim in the kvutza, you can have 3 teams of 4 to compete in some sort of round-robin tournament. If you have 9 or 10, you can either use only 1 director per team, or maybe 3 per team.

Setup:

Discussion:Start by asking the chanichim how the second game could be made easier for the seeker. Perhaps, to begin with, you could eliminate the directors, and simply let the commander face the field. Obviously this would make things easier by eliminating one component. However, ultimately the easiest way would be to just have a seeker, not blindfolded, who can immediately go grab the treasure.

In both the United States and Israeli government, there are types of democracies. How is a law decided? (You dont have to go into detail, but basically in America the Congressmen decide a law is needed, pass it, and then the president signs it and it becomes a law. In Israel, the MKs (Keneset Members) do something similar, except that there is no president to veto the bill. In many cases, the way congressmen/MKs decide laws are needed, is by hearing from their constituents. People write letters and make phone calls demanding a law be passed, and the congressmen act on it.

What are the benefits of this system? Obviously, it puts the power in the hands of many. 51 senators and 300-something representatives are required to pass a law in America, and 61 MKs in Israel. Furthermore, these people are directly responsible to the people of their states/country. Ultimately, the power is in the hands of the people. It is like the first game we played, in which everyone is involved, everyone has a stake, and only through the people can anything happen. It prevents one person from doing whatever he pleases. At best, the leader will try and do what he thinks is best, but being human he would still make mistakes. At worst he would be corrupt and only care himself. Depending on how old your chanichim are, you can go into great detail with them discussing the benefits of this system.

However, there are also drawbacks to this system. Ask the chanichim why its necessary to have a president/Prime Minister. If the power is safest in the hands of the people, why have an elected king in charge of the country? There are a good many reasons why this is so. For one, the prime minister can be a symbolic figurehead. In addition, he is someone who can go abroad and negotiate with other leaders. However, the most significant reasons are that in times of crisis a strong single leader is needed to direct without hesitation. If you have an army that is fighting a war, you must have a single general if you wait for a committee to decide how to attack, it will take too long to make a decision and you will lose. Furthermore, having a single leader enables you to keep crucial things a secret. At times it is vital for a government to maintain top secret things out of public knowledge. If there was no prime minister and all secrets were brought before the entire Keneset, nothing would remain confidential.

This is where the second game comes in. We said that in order to make the game simplest, we would just have the one player, the seeker, go get the treasure. The easiest way to have a government would be to have one leader who goes straight after the treasure. What does this mean? If there was a king who knew, 100% for sure, what was best for the country, and 100% only cared about doing what was best, then it would be ideal for this king to rule by himself. Giving him a senate or Keneset would only keep him from acting as he knows he must. Instead of being able to pass the just law that he KNOWS is required, he would first have to get it approved by the government. Rather, he should be given free reign to do as he needs for the good of the people.

So, if this is true, why do we think democracies are so great? Well, the situation we described, the king we described, is totally unrealistic in this world. We know that power corrupts, that no one is 100% right, and that even someone who theoretically (though this is also impossible) does not care about himself and only wants whats best for the country, would still make human mistakes.

What, then, is the ideal government of Israel? Well, in the current situation, we cant just give one person free reign. Its important to keep the focus of power with the people, and not allow one person to do as he wishes. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so we cannot allow anyone to have absolute power. BUT in Halacha, the concept of a king is a divine monarch, and not just someone who thinks he represents God, but someone who actually is receiving instructions from Hashem and is seeking the best for his people. In this messianic situation, in which Hashem is giving orders to the king and the king DOES know 100% what is best, we can say that a monarchy would be the best form of government, as it allows for the one who knows best to act without any impediment.



[1] Lynn, David. Great Games for 4th-6th Graders, Youth Specialties, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI 1990 p. 46



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