I was rather appalled this weekend to read in Maariv (link) that the President (Peres) has had new lawns installed at the official Presidential Residence. Let's not even get into the cost which is a reported 3 million NIS. But what bothers me is the issue of water.
Every day on the TV and radio are commercials that inform us to take more water-economical showers, that the kinneret is drying up.
Indeed, our water resources are at a dismally low point. This is the fault of years of government negligence. They knew the problem and just failed to address it. Now, in order to seed new grass, a huge quantity of water is needed daily. Currently, the government are allowing us to water lawns only twice a week (link). Officially Peres' residence is subject to the same laws. It is "defined" by law as a private residence.
So why is Peres any different? - according to the article quoted above, a spokesman at the President's Residence said something to the effect of: What do you want? That Obama will come for a visit and see yellowed, dried-out lawns?
And I say - Yes! Do it Mr. President! Let Obama see dried out lawns. And then he will ask Shimon Peres why his grass is in such a terrible state. Shimon - citizen no.1 will answer him:
"We are a country with few water resources. We are currently suffering from severe water shortage. I have decided to set an example to the country. People will see my dried up grass and realise that this water situation is serious. I do not live in an ivory tower. I am one of the people. I need to lead by example."
And Obama will smile in admiration at this man who is willing to forgo the outer Presidential trappings and frills, in order to be a true leader. Shimon. If you just act in that way, you will win the admiration of any and every world leader.
In Bnei Akiva, we were always taught that to be a leader is to set a personal example. Our Hadracha (leadership training) was built upon the cardinal rule of "Dugma Ishit" - that the most effective leadership is one of personal example. That the ultimate hypocrisy is to preach one thing and to practice another. My experience in the world of education, community and parenting has demonstrated to me that this is true. If you genuinely want to change things, if you want to be an effective educator, a person who effects real internal change in others, start by acting in a manner that others can and will emulate.
Shimon. Show us all what a leader you are. Your Jerusalem residence is not Versailles. Join us, the people of Israel, in saving water, and we will all respect you more.
(For another just disgraceful and embarrasing example of total govermental blindness and arrogance in the water sphere, see this article. Is there no shame?)