Israel in Real Time

Israel in Real Time

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


As tensions flare up in the south life in Israel sadly has taken this turn as if these evebts are just  taken as a reality. The conclusions are clear, Israel will reply, there will or will not be several additional rounds and then there will be a resumption of quiet; until the next round. There is no anxiety in Israel just an acceptance of these events, which opens the truly fundamental question how and where will this end.


In this regard there are two aspects to address, the internal –in this post– as well as the external future of the State. (It should be noted that when one poses the question to Israelis informally, there invariably is first a “grand pause”, before a reply follows.)


Facing their internal future, most Israelis are not fatalistic, but realistic.  Among secular (and even non-orthodox Israelis) there are two interesting responses to this question. One suggested that the confrontation between the secular and the Orthodox will ultimately destroy the country. They see the current mood of intolerance worsening and the””kulturkamp” intensifying. The political consequence is, therefore, a capitulation to a demographic problem which has no good result. What or whether there will be or can even be a two state solution in 20 years is totally unclear; but they're not optimistic. Given not only the Arab growth but also the charedi growth, it is clearly possible to see their logic.


Another view which seems to be present among some secular Israelis but that was echoed in part by some religious Zionists is the fact that no one in Tel Aviv cares what is going on in Jerusalem and vice versa.  Life in Tel Aviv is so dynamic, exciting, and vibrant that many of these Israelis have no interest in what might be occurring only miles away. They are focused on their own lives, careers, and families. Similarly, certainly among the charedi community, there is no attention being given to any of the genuine concerns or interests of secular Israelis. There appears, despite poverty, and economic dislocation, and social issues–which are actually now emerging with scary openness–there is a sense of charedi triumphalism as they see where they are and contemplate the future.


Interestingly, some secular Israelis to this day do not draw a real distinction between the charedi and the religious Zionist worlds. The know the difference especially with respect to military service, but they basically blur the lines when it comes to the future, especially as it reflects politics.


There is one interesting observation that was articulated by several modern Orthodox leaders which, to their minds, suggest that discussion of an actual kulturkamp is a gross exaggeration. They argue that first and foremost economics will ultimately drive the charedi into the work force in a significant way. The need to provide, the pressure of  economic  survival will change their approach to work, and perhaps to many aspects of modern society. As a result they actually are more optimistic.


Secondly, they see a return and renewed interest in Jewish and religious studies, not because there is a sudden wave of religious revivalism among the secular community, but because they believe that certainly among the more educated secular Israelis more of them realize what th ey missed or are lacking in their history and education. The growth of groups studying religious texts has spread throughout the country and some are now suggesting that there can well develop a growing understanding and respect for each side.

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