Chaos or control?
This week the nation has been rocked by two tragedies in Jerusalem. According to the news reports, a family in Gilo smelled gas in their apartment, called a licensed technician who said everything was fine yet hours later died when the gas exploded. In the other instance, a family in Givat Mordechai brought in a licensed pesticide applicator to rid their house of pests. The person supposedly gave them safety precautions but left a can of the fumigant in the house. Somehow toxic phosphine gas was released and the family members are either dead or in critical care. That same evening they brought two of their children to a clinic because they were ill and were told it was “indigestion due to eating rotten eggs and cheese.” Whether the family told the doctors about the fumigation or not is still not clear.
What stands out to me in both of these stories is that both tragedies were caused by licensed operators, not individuals.
In response to these tragedies, I have seen headlines telling people what to do if there is a gas leak, and more people saying that the family should know better than to sleep in a house that was just sprayed with a pesticide, but that is not where people should direct their anger. Yes, people need to know how to take care of themselves. These families did- they called licensed professionals and trusted that they were knowledgeable enough to fix their problems. It is not each individual’s responsibility (nor is it their ability) to achieve a sufficient understanding of electronics, plumbing and auto mechanics, for example, that a licensed electrician, plumber, or mechanic has. It is, however the government’s responsibility to ensure that people who work in these fields have sufficient knowledge and experience to perform their job correctly and protect the public from harm. My father once said something similar to me when we were discussing a store’s kashrut certificate, which I thought was insufficient because that was what everyone in town was saying. He told me that neither he nor I have certification in kashrut and are not sufficiently knowledgeable to judge this rabbi’s decisions. If the yeshiva gave him “hasmacha” (from Babylon: authorization, empowerment, ordainment, investiture, qualification, investment, accreditment), it is the yeshiva’s responsibility to ensure that this rabbi espouses their ideals, values, and regulations. If we eat something treif because the mashgiach is not performing his job correctly, the sin is not on you and me but the mashgiach and the yeshiva who gave him hasmacha. Yes, we should all perform due diligence- “the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). We should do what is reasonable to protect ourselves and our property from danger. We should not need to take extraordinary measures to keep ourselves from danger. That is government’s task.
I started this blog to help Anglos gain knowledge about their adopted country, because knowledge is power. We all at times have been belittled by our faulty language skills, bewilderment when faced with certain behaviours and a myriad of other things. We will never be fluent in all of the nuances in Hebrew or be able to perfect that shoulder shrug, but we can petition our government to make sure that there is acountability for people who do not perform according to the standards and regulations of their profession. If the government doesn’t demand accountability, then the issuing of a license loses its meaning. And if the government forgets its responsibilty to protect the people it governs, then it is our responsibility to remind them. Because if the governement can’t exert proper control, then we slide the slippery slope into chaos.
- The Ministry of Environmental Protection licenses pesticides and pesticide applicators for home use. You can contact them through their web site.
- The Ministry of National Infrstructures, Energy and Water Resources issues licenses and supervises the gas companies and their employees and works “to mitigate safety hazards.” You can contact them through their web site.
- In 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States forbid the use of aluminum and magnesium phosphide pesticides in or around all residental areas due to the high rate of poisonings. Perhaps it is time for us as well.