I am still in Israel. There is an ongoing discussion here about what kind of country must Israel be. The right and the left of politics are clashing I think even more than in the U.S. In the US the election cycle really makes the clash between conservatives, progressives and moderates more evident.
In Israel however the clash is something more unique. Yes right wing and left wing ideologies clash. But here in Israel there is a clash between Western democratic values and non-Western ideas. Remember there are over a million former residents of the Soviet Union here who still don’t quite get Western Democracy. Add to it Israeli Arabs, Ethiopians and old fashioned socialists and you get a mix in the political world that is volatile.
But there is something deeper still in this recipe. And that was made really clear by my trip to Bet Shemesh which is the town where Charedi Jews are clashing with the modern Orthodox Jews and spitting on their children as if they were demons. The clash here is pre-Enlightement ideas vs. post-modernity! The Charedim inhabit a world that tries to deny the world around them. They want to preserve the “intrusions” of contemporary life as unseemly and perhaps even evil. No television or art and culture. Not that western culture is everything. But they see any acknowledgement of modernity as a threat.
In Bet Shemesh the clash is not with secular Jews or non-believers. The clash is with Orthodox, traditional people. Women cover their hair. Men wear tzitzit. But the Chareidi group that has moved to Beit Shemesh is even Anti-Zionist. They don’t want the state of Israel. And yet part of the clash is that they want the municipality to follow their rules, and build them a school.
The Orthodox families who are trying to protect their daughters from harrasment by these thugs are live and let live people. They don’t want the Chariedim out. But they are tired of suppressing their religious ideals for someone else who expresses their ideals through thuggery. You don’t spit on eight year old girls. You don’t verbally abuse the mothers who pick up their children at school. You don’t throw dead fish in the boys’ school on the day it opens.
Bet Shemesh is a microcosm of the whole country. It is complex and the inner discussion my friends is as important as any outer discussions for the sake of peace.