Local Government Corruption in Israel
Israelis were greatly disturbed by the recent exposure of a local government corruption scandal involving Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem from 2003 until 2008, as well as many senior city officials, lawyers, engineers and builders. Lupolianski, the first ultra-orthodox mayor of Israel's capitol, rose to prominence from 1989 to 2003 during his years as an influential member of the Jerusalem city council and chairman of the municipal planning and construction committee. A national criminal investigation team alleges that during that time, Lupolianski received millions of dollars in bribes that ensured the construction and expansion of a highly contested housing project in southern Jerusalem called “Holyland”. This apartment complex project was approved despite significant public opposition and the illegal reduction of many required public support facilities in order to increase future profits. While the police allege that several other politicians were involved in the “Holyland” scandal, Lupolianski is also suspected of bribing political field activists to ensure his election as mayor of Jerusalem in 2003. Once again we see government leaders abusing their God-given authority for the sake of personal gain.A highly public volunteer organization in Israel may also be implicated in this scandal. “Yad Sarah” (Sarah's Hand), founded by Lupolianski himself and numbering more than 6,000 workers and volunteers, was created in 1976 to provide hospice services to the needy and infirm. If the accusations are true, this may mean that as founder and chairman of “Yad Sarah”, Lupolianski siphoned bribes associated with the “Holyland” and other development projects in the form of large donations that were then laundered through the "Yad Sarah" financial system.
The corruption climbs ever higher to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Already under investigation for various forms of corruption, the police now believe him to be a key suspect in the “Holyland” case. Though Olmert adamantly denies any knowledge of these alleged illegal activities, the approval of the building plans for “Holyland”, as well as the supposed exchange of bribes, both took place during Olmert’s terms as mayor of Jerusalem.
Media broadcasts of former mayor Uri Lupolianski and former City Engineer Uri Shitrit being incarcerated on the eve of Independence Day celebrations have shaken Jerusalem municipal managers and employees. Some have been implicated in the recent scandal, while many others await police interrogation. A messianic colleague of Revive Israel, a senior engineer in the Jerusalem municipality under the administrations of both Olmert and Lupolianski, notes that the current scandal is not surprising, given the years of allegations that preceded the present crisis.
Nonetheless, public servants who are guided by honesty and integrity have nothing to fear. Periodic shake-downs are a necessary means of balancing the powers of local government in order to harness the personal ambitions of unbelieving civil servants for the public good. As John wrote, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Indeed, fear comes from punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love" (I John 4:18). We must never rejoice in the punishment and sufferings of others, but rather seek to be a living example of service according to the Law of the Messiah.
Sadly, corruption is a fact of life in the Middle East with famous examples of Saddam Hussein’s siphoning of nearly $2 billion and Yasser Arafat’s embezzlement of $7 billion embezzled as leader of the PLO. In fact, despite the bleak story presented above, Israel actually stands out in the Middle East as relatively ethical, with high standards and laws preventing this type of corruption from simply running rampant in all spheres of life. For this reason, the revelation of this particular scandal is rocking Israeli society.
Corruption and injustice is written about in Psalm 14.
1. The fool has said in his heart,
"There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.2. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3. They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
5. .God is with the generation of the righteous.
6. You shame the counsel of the poor,
But the LORD is his refuge.
7. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
The Psalmist uses strong imagery to describe the abuse that the corrupt man brings on the poor and needy. In verse 6 another way of translating states it "You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor." Consider Lupolianski's alleged use of “Yad Sarah” donations designated to the poor for bribery and corruption. Yet the Lord declares again that He is the refuge of the poor.
We can be filled with hope as we read the final verses of this Psalm: “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!” The Lord promises that when all is said and done, corruption and evil will not prevail, but that salvation will come to His people.
It is then our duty to pray as I Timothy 2:1-3 encourages us:
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayer, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior."
Jerusalem will be the place where Yeshua will reside and from where He will reign over all the earth. As such, it is a center of spiritual warfare and is in need of as much prayer and intercession as possible. Therefore, we continue to pray for and stand on the promise that salvation will come forth out of Zion… and Yeshua will be our King, Savior, and Lord.
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