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Whose Israel?

I suppose the question should be “who does modern Israel belong to”?

By that I mean, secular or religious Jews.

Israel was after all founded or maybe I should say reestablished as a Homeland for Jews.

Today (January 2021), the population of Israel stands at 9.3 million citizens of which 74% are categorized as Jewish, 21% are classed as Arab - both Muslim and Christian. The remaining 5% are citizens defined as “others”, which includes faiths such as Samaritanism and Baháʼí, and "religiously unclassified", the category for all who do not belong to one of the recognized communities.

So Israel does have a Jewish majority. But who does Israel belong to?

While Israeli Jews are all technically under the jurisdiction of the state rabbinate, we know that personal attitudes vary immensely, from extreme Orthodoxy to atheism and antireligion. Israeli Jews mainly classify themselves along a fourfold axis, from least to most observant, of hiloni or "secular". This group constitutes 40%-50% of all Israeli Jews. Masorti or "traditional" Jews account for 30%-40%; while dati or "religious Jews" number in the region of 10%; and Haredi, "ultra-orthodox" also account currently for 12% of the population.

According to a recent Times of Israel article – - based on information from the Israel Democracy Institute, the ultra-orthodox community is set to double within 16 years. In broad terms, the ultra-orthodox community today numbers around 1.175 million.

And is the critical factor from the report “the (Haredi) community will double in size every 16 years while the rest of the population is expected to double in size every 37 years. The non-Haredi Jewish population is predicted to double every 50 years at current rates.”

So why I am going on about this, like a grumpy old man? For a start, I am an old man – 72 next birthday, although not sure about the grumpy, at least not all the time. The problem with age, at least with me, is that while my body may be in its seventh decade, my brain is stuck at 19, which is both a blessing and a danger.

Back to the question, “who does Israel belong to’’?

A few months ago, well before the announcement of yet another general election, I raised the idea of boycotting the elections, simply refusing to vote. Choosing not to vote is also a way of showing the ever-growing number of prima donnas in Jerusalem that enough is enough, and instead of blaming each other for the impasse, stop acting like spoilt children and learn to work together. Wishful thinking, I know.

And until a few days, that, even after the calling of the fourth election in two years, was my intention. I have in the past 72 hours had a change of heart. My utter contempt for these prima donnas and wannabes is as strong as ever. I have however come to appreciate that by not voting, I am helping to strengthen the creeping hold that the Haredi community has on Israel.

Israel, while a Jewish state, is not their state. Massive sways of the Haredi community do not recognize the modern State of Israel, some even meeting with Iranian and others who in their rhetoric call for the annihilation of Israel.

The sense is that many in the Haredi community want to take, take, take from the State but are not ready or willing to give anything in return. Not army service or national service, or any other form of service to the State.

My view of religion has been well documented elsewhere. I have no issue if the Haredim or anyone else for that matter wishes to follow and practice their beliefs, that is their choice. What is not acceptable is their desire to impose their views and will on others. I think of myself as an Israeli, the Jewish element is not important to me. To that end, I thankful that my ID card does not include religion – i.e. Jewish, Muslim, Christian.

Israel is my home, my country but it's changed since I first came here in late 1968. Of course, there have been changes, nothing standstill, I would not want it to. But with that change from 1968 to 2021, Israel has moved in many respects in a different direction.

I doubt if I was 19 again that I would come to Israel, as I did in 1968. True, I did in many respects run away from home, I was despite good employment prospects, immature. Put it another way, I did not think the issue through in any depth. While not a spur of the moment decision, I did not fully discuss the idea of moving to Israel with anyone. Not that I was close to anyone, to discuss it with. I blindly and somewhat naively bought the package offered by the Jewish Agency. Not their fault, it’s solely mine.

So here I am and deeply worried about the future of Israel.

I don’t care a hoot about Benjamin Netanyahu, and his poodles. Likewise, I don’t give a hoot about the Three Stooges – Litzman, Gafni, and Deri. They don’t give a damn about me, I certainly don’t about them.

Similarly, Bezalel Smotrich, who, if he had his way, would evoke biblical law, if such a thing ever existed.

So, having decided that I must vote in the March elections to help stem the following of the Haredi encroachment on secular Israel, the question is which party to support. Who is going to protect Israel? By that, I do not mean military-wise, although of course, that is important. Which of the more than a dozen parties is going to defend/protect the values of secular Israelis?

The issue is of course that they all talk-the-talk, but when push comes to shove, can’t or won't walk-the-walk. In other words, it's all hot air, promises, and spin but no actual commitment. As Del-Boy would say, “they all tell porkies”.

I endure a feeling of genuine sorrow for the younger generation of secular Israelis. From what I am hearing/seeing, single and recently married secular Israelis are moving abroad in search of a future not dominated by the hypocritical, bloodsucking Haredim, many of whom contribute zero to the State of Israel but like Shylock, readily demand their pound of flesh.

So who does Israel belong to?

Maybe I should ask, who will own Israel, govern the country in the coming years?

How can we safeguard secular Israeli values?


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