Is anybody listening?

One of the first things I noticed about Israel is that everyone is involved in the country in a way unlike anything I had seen in the US. Every minimally educated Israeli can recognize a large percentage of Knesset members and cabinet members by sight. They can tell you who is a member of which of the myriad parties, what party he or she used to belong to and whether he or she is someone you can trust. Politicians seen on television or in a restaurant are always identified by their faces. Most politicians are identified by their voices on the radio. There are no places to hide.

Israel is simply too small a country. It really is just a very big family. If in the US there are six degrees of separation—that is any random person is connected with any other somehow through only six sets of relationships, in Israel, the number is much lower. In fact, it is rare for us to meet anyone with whom we have no one in common.

Similarly, everyone is involved in the political situation. The country from long before its founding has been under attack. The shomrim guarded the earliest modern settlements from marauding Arabs and in 1929, long before statehood, the Jews of Hebron were massacred. So here we are a big family who have constantly been under attack by our neighbors since before we were born (not to mention throughout history.) That pushes emotions pretty high. Everyone here realizes that survival is a constant struggle. All of us know that we are vastly outnumbered by people who seek to destroy us. So what do we, the common citizens do about it?

We fight with each other.

Actually, although most of us are capable of civil debate, we usually express our strong opinions to those who already agree with us. It saves our noses and cuts down on the use of gauze pads. We are a hot-blooded people and there is nothing more emotionally stressful than a debate over what the government should or should not be doing.

Now add to the mix two more elements (at least… my almost brother is sure to remind me of the ones I forgot) Add the fact that Israel has a limited concept of democracy and the need of Israel never to anger the US who is our benefactor and protector.

Now what we have is a bunch of hot-headed people talking to other people who agree with them and getting more and more stirred up about the rightness of their approach to survival. They decide that they are so right that really the other side should not have the right to oppose their ideas even by what in the US would be called legitimate protest or civil disobedience. They believe that what they want to do is the only course of action acceptable to the US government, So what we have now in Israel is prior restraint. That is, possible protestors and organizers of possible protests are being arrested and questioned for days and sometimes weeks. Today, as the people opposed to the expulsion from Gaza prepared for peaceful demonstrations, buses of young people were stopped and not allowed to proceed so that people could not get to the demonstrations.

In the end, the protest was effective. At intersections all around Israel from the north to the south, protestors held signs and chanted, “Jews do not expel Jews.” The message was expressed, but will it be heard?

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  1. I just finished reading “The Haj” by Leon Uris (the author of EXODUS, and your comments about the shomrim and the constant attacks from the Arabs were the main point of the story. (This was my reading on the plane back from Sweden…again a Frank & Eric trip). Speaking of knowing folks everywhere, after we visited with you we visted with Dan Gold in Herzilea, an old friend who like you moved to Israel and loves it there.