Israel Dons Hair Shirt over Bridge Collapse: Accident That Killed 2 Sets off Flurry of Self-Criticism by Pundits, Public

Article excerpt

JERUSALEM - The bridge collapse that took the lives of two Australians at the Maccabiah Games this week has evoked an unusual measure of self-criticism in Israel, sometimes amounting to self-flagellation, about the very nature of its society.

What appears to have been shocking sloppiness in the bridge's construction has been taken by many commentators and members of the public as an analogy for something fundamentally amiss in the Israeli national character.

"We're a clever people," wrote columnist Avraham Tirosh in the daily newspaper Ma'ariv after the incident, "but to tell the truth, we've got some national characteristics that are pretty miserable: exaggerated self-confidence mixed with no small measure of braggadocio suitable to people who know everything; irresponsibility and an almost religious faith that everything will work out in the end, somehow. No need to worry, certainly not about proper work procedures and precise execution. Are we square like the British or the Swiss?"

Said Knesset member Michael Nudelman, whose son, Boris, is a member of the Australian delegation: "Negligence and insensitivity have become the credo of Israeli society."

Another Knesset member, former Speaker Shevah Weiss, said the apparent lack of safety precautions reminded him of the night that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995.

Many linked the bridge collapse to other fatal accidents such as the crushing of three youths to death two years ago at a music festival because a gate had been shut, the high rate of road fatalities and the deadly accidents that periodically afflict the army.

"A culture has evolved where laws, rules and regulations are not respected," said Tel Aviv University sociologist Ephraim Yauchtman-Yaar. …