Thursday, December 07, 2006

How Much Does Secular Crime Cost Israeli Society?

I bet you won’t be seeing that headline in the next issue of Haaretz.
That doesn’t mean that the editors of the rabidly secular and radically left propaganda sheet object to spreading negative stereotypes, to the demonization of a group of people, or to feeding the flames of prejudice and anti-Semitism – of course not. They do it all the time. I even recall seeing at my mother’s house (an avid reader and lifelong subscriber) a whole supplement dedicated to one important subject – how much the settler movement costs Israeli society. To believe them, every breath that a settler takes in literally sucks the life out of the poor, impoverished children living on this side of the green line. The whole supplement was full of the most indiscriminate anti-Semitic slanders possible, and if the point of the exercise was to prove that Jewish anti-Semites can be much better, more successful, and more vicious and hateful than their gentile mentors – than it was crowned with success.
It has always surprised me that the settler movement, and orthodox leaders in general, have never retaliated in kind – after all there are some very obvious areas of life where the secular lifestyle really does cost all of us a lot of money, and I am pretty sure that across the board a religious lifestyle would cost less, financially, than a secular one (the spiritual price though, can be steep). Anyway, two can play at that game, and, seeing that a chance fell right into my lap, I say - let’s play!

But First – Something Serious

The other day this article in the Hebrew Arutz 7 caught my eye – it’s just a short piece concerning a press release from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics about juvenile delinquency in Israel. (link to the full Hebrew doc. here). The Arutz 7 title read “More Criminal cases in Single-Parent Families”. That interested me – I think that ever since reading about the Disappearance of Childhood, I’ve been wondering what the effect must be on the children, including the effect of divorce and single-parenting. Coming on the heels of my previous post about the recent feminist effort to have their cake and eat it too, it seemed particularly fitting.
Anyway, I downloaded the whole press release. The data set is for the school year of 2003-4, and the population is 12 to 20 year old Israelis. It refers to criminal charges filed against this age group and that were serious enough to not be dismissed –it’s worthwhile to note that fifty percent of all criminal files opened against this age group end up being closed due to leniency, penitence on the part of the offender and so on.
After this general introduction, the press release delves deeper into the data, trying to ferret out the social characteristics of the juvenile delinquents. One of these is the family situation.

Family and Crime
In the general population, in this age group, 83.8 percent of the children have two parents who are married, but the percentage of juvenile delinquents is only 68.3
On the other hand, the group of kids that has only one parent constitutes 7.5 percent of the general population, but they make up 14.1 percent of the juvenile delinquents.
That means that the likelihood of a child having criminal files charged against him are almost double if he has only one parent, while it is a lot less if he has two parents. A little more than half of this group of single parent families is made up of divorced families, and the rest are mostly bereaved families.
This means first of all that the Arutz 7 article was correct, both in it’s headline and in the details – since accuracy in reporting is never a given these days, I think that’s worth mentioning. Second of all this data apparently shows the importance to society of a strong traditional family. (I say apparently because I am not forgetting the first lesson in statistics – correlation is not causation).
Now, with that put behind us, we can start to play.

Statistics are an excellent way to smear a political opponent. They are true – can’t argue with that, but their meaning can be framed in almost any way desired. As someone famously put it: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics!”
The left excels in this kind of misinformation and uses it to great effect. It really is a very simple thing to do – all you need to do is to take a press release from, let’s say, the Israeli CBS, like I just did and pore over the data. Soon enough you will find what you want, and when you do, you can make a provocative, misleading and yet – not completely untrue headline in your newspaper – or your blog – as the case may be…add an interview with a well known proponent of your point of view and voila – you have just done as good a job as any journalist out there is doing. Here’s how the end result looks like:

Secular Crime – How Much Does It Cost Israeli Society?
According to a new press release from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, children studying in Israeli secular schools are responsible for the majority of crimes committed by youths attending the Israeli education system. According to recently completed research, in the school year 2003-4 , secular children were three times more likely to be charged with a crime, then children studying in Haredi schools , and almost twice as likely to be charged compared with children studying in the National Religious school system.
For some this may come as a shock, but well-known social worker and activist, Rabbi Danny Cohen Head of the Jerusalem Center for Spiritual Rehabilitation encounters it daily:

“ For years most of the young people who come to us have been secular kids, young people who should be studying for their Bar-Mitva or learning Torah in the afternoons, but instead they are doing drugs, or dealing drugs, or else they are stealing, mugging, and harassing other people, or engaging in random vandalism.”

Rabbi Cohen says that the growth of secular crime in recent years has put such a burden on the governmental social services that they are on the verge of collapse:
“ We are a private organization” explains Rabbi Cohen, “and we are funded by the goodwill of the religious community. Originally we thought to serve those few unfortunate children of ours who, for reasons out of their control, fell astray. But soon we realized that for every religious child who has been charged with a crime, there at least ten or even twenty secular children who are in a much worse position and have nowhere to go to. Seeing this, the community decided to open it’s arms, and help them.”

Of course, everyone is glad that secular children are being given a second chance, but at some point one has to ask – where is the secular community, and more importantly, how much is secular crime actually costing Israeli society – and who is footing the bill? We talked to Dr. Eli Barnabas, the renowned economist from Bar-Ilan University who stated in no uncertain terms – the secular bill is enormous:
“ It is not easy to calculate the cost of secular crime to Israeli society, since so much expense from so many sources is involved – for instance we must calculate the burden on the police force who must chase after 15 year old secular kids instead of fighting terrorism, the parole officers, and social workers who must be assigned to each case, not to mention the construction and maintenance of numerous facilities to hold and perhaps rehabilitate secular juvenile delinquents, and that is not to mention the lost work days of their parents and victims and their teachers, and the young criminals themselves who can be studying or working instead of committing crimes – in short” Dr. Barnabass concluded breathlessly, “secular crime costs tens of millions of shekels to the taxpayer”.

While some may wonder what may have been done with such a large amount of money – how many jobs created, how much poverty erased - others in the religious community are concerned not with the cost – but with the way it is shared. Orna from a settlement near Jerusalem is an angry mother of six who prefers to remain anonymous: “ I stay at home and raise my children in a righteous manner, god willing – so why do I have to pay for secular crime, for all the neglect, and irresponsibility that secular families indulge in? Is that fair? Until when must we suffer because of the secular Israelis?” asks one virtuous woman.

This plaintive cry for justice, for fair play in our high-strung society is beginning to be heard more often.Decent people are indeed becoming fed up with secular corruption and crime and spiritual decay. How long until the lone voices gather into a storm that will shake Israeli society? Perhaps not as long as you think.

See. Wasn’t that easy? Wasn’t that fun? And hateful? Can you imagine reading that kind of stuff everyday in the papers, hearing it on the radio, on TV? Can you imagine the cumulative effect of such a campaign on the Israeli public? How long until people start to really hate the secular sector? How long until they would want to do something about it?
Of course no need to imagine what would happen if such a campaign were waged against observing Jews. We already know what that looks like – we’ve been living in it for years.

Note: the CBS press release does not give the numbers comparing secular children to religious children. It only compares children in the three educational sectors one to the other in absolute numbers. This means that a direct comparison is impossible with the data supplied. This may be done on purpose, but maybe also because it is not so easy to define secular and religious in a sociological study.


mother in israel said...

Well that was enlightening. Are you in insurance by any chance?

Jerusalem Joe said...

how did you make that connection?
anyway - i am no where near insurance.
what made you think of that?

a mother in israel said...

Um, never mind!!!